LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. has been considered the top player at his position since his freshman season in 2019, when he won a national title with the Tigers.
Stingley is considered a top-10 prospect approaching the 2022 draft, possessing “elite athleticism and rare ball skills (that) make him a generational talent at cornerback,” The Draft Network’s Keith Sanchez wrote.
The Minnesota Vikings have been connected to Stingley in several mock drafts, and he’s also become a fan favorite, earning the most selections in fan mock drafts at WalterFootball.com. The LSU connections are abound with the Vikings rostering Tigers alumni Justin Jefferson, Danielle Hunter and potentially a mentor in Patrick Peterson if the veteran cornerback is re-signed.
Adding even more allure in Minnesota, the Vikings recently hired a familiar face who Stingley developed a strong connection in his final year of college football.
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‘He’d Run Through a Wall for Him’
On Monday, Minnesota brought back Daronte Jones as the team’s defensive backs coach for the 2022 season. Jones spent the 2020 season with the Vikings in the same position before taking the defensive coordinator job at LSU in 2021.
Jones’ year as defensive coordinator at LSU was marred by injury, including a season-ending foot injury to Stingley.
However, in their short time together, Stingley developed a deep connection with Jones. Stingley’s father, Derek Stingley Sr., a former professional football and baseball player, vouched for Jones and the bond he built with the team in a short time.
“I was really impressed with Jones,” Stingley Sr. said on The Jordy Colutta Show in July 2021. “I believe you could see the passion coming through. I believe he’s gonna relate to these kids and do what’s best for them. Derek really likes him, he’s already had a few conversations with him, personal conversations where coach Jones reached out to him and called him on certain occasions.
“Derek called me immediately after and was like ‘Dad, Pelini never called me, Aranda never called me.’ They’d talk to me yeah but not have personal relationships like coach [Corey] Raymond. It just shows he’s relating to these kids. I’m pretty sure Derek’s going to want to run through a wall for him.”
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Stingley Could be a Draft Steal
Before the 2021 season, Stingley was a consensus top-three pick in the upcoming draft despite coming off a lackluster 2020 season. But after suffering foot and leg injuries the past two seasons, Stingley’s draft stock has taken a hit — but the potential is still there.
He snared six interceptions and allowed a 52.8 passer rating to produce a 91.7 defensive grade by Pro Football Focus his freshman season. At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, he has the physical tools to be an island corner in the NFL.
Stingley has dropped to the ninth overall pick in Pro Football Focus mock drafts and is becoming a riskier pick in the draft for teams to gamble with a top-five overall pick.
The Vikings, who should draft a cornerback with their first pick, are likely entering a win-win situation with the potential to get another player in a deep cornerback class this season or capitalize on Stingley falling later in the draft.