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2022 NFL Draft: the Texans wisely bet on Derek Stingley Jr.’s transformational talent

By Emile Avanessian

Published: 12:02, 6 May 2022

After an incredible freshman season, injury and inconsistency dropped Derek Stingley Jr. under the radar. On Draft Day, however, the Texans saw him for what he truly is – a precocious, transformational talent that’s rarely, if ever, there for the taking.

Chances are that, in the run-up to the 2022 NFL Draft, you read something to the effect of ‘fell off after an elite freshman year’ with regard to Derek Stingley Jr. Strictly speaking, this is true. In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, as a sophomore, Stingley only appeared in seven games of LSU’s ten games, failed to record an interception, and only defended five passes. 2021 was even worse, as a foot injury limited him to just three games, eight tackles and a forced fumble in his junior season. If cause for concern is what you’re after, you’ll find on the back end of Stingley’s college career.

HOWEVER…

What came before should have been enough to cement the six-foot corner in the ‘elite’ category. In 2019, as a true freshman, Stingley – a five-star recruit and the #3 overall prospect in his recruiting class – was a revelation. He appeared in all 15 of LSU’s regular and postseason games, and led the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in interceptions (6) and passes defended (21) – not the team, not SEC freshmen, but the entire S-E-C and was named first-team all-conference and All-America from every credible publication that hands out such honors.

19 year-olds simply do not do this. For someone of that age to step into any conference and dominate this way would be noteworthy. To do so in the SEC – the highest level of the sport outside of the NFL – for one of the greatest college teams in recent (and less recent) memory is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s not an exaggeration to say that he’d have held his own in the NFL as a teenager.

Again, that is simply not a thing that happens.

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While we can’t completely ignore the past two seasons, to overweight them to the point of ignoring one of the singular debut seasons in college history is downright silly.

Illness and injury happen. They are harsh realities of the world in which we live. So is recovery and, for all that Stingley has endured over the past two years, at no point during the pre-draft process were concerns raised about any lingering ailment.

As for the inconsistency?

For starters, Stingley’s drop-off in production when he was on the field was due to the fact that opposing quarterbacks simply tried to avoid throwing the ball in his direction. You know, like they would for the likes of Deion Sanders and Champ Bailey. Can there be a more valid reason??

Secondly – and I should point out here that I don’t know Stingley, nor do I know anyone who does, nor have I heard the man himself say anything to this effect – but I’m going to speculate wildly here. Let’s say that, as a teenager, you step into the highest available level of your chosen profession, and show yourself to be not just up to the task, but above it. Now, despite having provided an emphatic proof of concept, let’s say that an arbitrary rule dictates you must bide your time for two more years, risking (and sustaining!) injury, battle illness (COVID and otherwise), all without pay. Is it not possible that your motivation would waver, at least a bit?

Well, Stingley is here now!

An obscenely athletic, strong, blazing fast, agile, intelligent and instinctive ball-hawking corner with a perfect NFL frame, with a proven track record against top competition? Find me the NFL team – regardless of who they’ve already got in place – that doesn’t want that.

Of course, now it’s all got to happen. Given the ridiculous toolbox with which Stingley arrives in the NFL, it’s a safe bet that it very much does. If he fulfills even (arbitrary number alert!) 60% of his potential, his selection at #3 will have been a risk worth taking. If he actually finds the ceiling of his ability, the Texans will have a generational shutdown corner the likes of which the NFL rarely sees.

✕︎

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