There are many reasons to believe Derek Stingley Jr. will not be a New York Jet
If you’re obsessed with mock drafts like I am, then chances are you’ve seen more than one that projects the New York Jets to select LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. with the fourth overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft. Dane Brugler of The Athletic released a 2-round mock draft yesterday, and sure enough, he had the Jets taking Stingley.
Stingley’s talent is clear for all to see – you don’t have six interceptions and 15 passes defended as a freshman in the SEC without talent – but Stingley is a boom or bust prospect. The Jets don’t have the luxury of taking a risk on a player like that in this year’s draft. They need to hit, and while there are no guarantees with any prospects, some are riskier than others.
Derek Stingley’s college game, production decline, and durability issues
For all his obvious talent, Stingley hasn’t recorded an interception since that freshman season of 2019. There are two reasons for that.
Firstly, teams realized that challenging him was foolhardy.
During his freshman campaign, Singley was targeted 94 times, which is good for an average of over six targets per game. During his second season in 2020, he was targeted 30 times over seven games, good for just over four targets a game. Through three games in 2021, he’d received just five total targets, fewer than two per game. Fewer targets equal fewer opportunities.
The second reason is that Singley has only played 10 games over the last two years. That’s a big red flag for a top-five player. The injury that kept him out for almost the entirety of the 2021 season was a reaggravation of a previous foot injury that required surgery. Foot injuries can linger and be troublesome for all players, especially players who plant and drive like corners.
Outside of the lack of interceptions, Stingley was never a complete shutdown corner. His six interceptions in 2019 were accompanied by five touchdowns allowed, and his aggressiveness led to him allowing 17.3 yards per reception over his freshman season.
Starting as a freshman in the SEC isn’t easy, especially at a position like corner, and that showed up when he faced off against Alabama on Nov. 11, 2019. Stingley allowed 211 yards and two touchdowns on throws into his coverage against the Crimson Tide, along with an allowed completion percentage of 83.3%.
This is not to shoot Stingley down – he had an outstanding season in 2019 – but even then it wasn’t perfect.
There is a little bit of Trevon Diggs to Stingley’s game. Similar to the Cowboys corner, Stingley has game-changing potential in terms of forcing incompletions and turning the ball over, but is susceptible to getting burnt on a big play. The difference is that Diggs was a second-round pick and we’re talking about Stingley as a top 5 draft pick overall.
Over the last two years, Stingley has played 289 coverage snaps – that’s it. For context, Jets corner Bryce Hall played 668 coverage snaps this year alone and fellow draft prospect Sauce Gardner played 322 coverage snaps in 2021 for the Cincinnati Bearcats.
Stingley just hasn’t played a lot of football since his freshman season, and that’s a concern when you’re talking about a top-five draft selection.
Derek Stingley’s scheme fit with Jets
A lot of people see Stingley as a pure man corner, but he’s actually performed well when being asked to play zone, too. The Jets tend to mix their coverage schemes and although they play more zone than man, having a corner capable of doing both is absolutely the preference.
I do think you can comfortably say that to get the best out of a corner like Stingley, he’s better-suited heading to a team that plays more man coverage. Teams like Miami, New England, and Denver tend to run their corners in man coverage between 45-50% of the time as opposed to the Jets who are around 30%.
During Stingley’s best season in 2019, PFF graded him as the best man coverage corner in college football among 80 qualifiers, with 12 of his 15 pass breakups and three of his six interceptions coming while playing that type of coverage.
In zone coverage using the same qualification metrics, he was ranked as the 18th best corner in college football, one place behind current Jets corner Brandin Echols. So while he can play zone, he isn’t as accomplished in that scheme as he is in man. With the Jets playing more zone, the fit doesn’t seem right to me.
That doesn’t stop draft experts from talking about Stingley to the Jets.
“Derek Stingley Jr., the corner from LSU, makes a lot of sense,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said on the First Draft podcast.
“Now, you gotta go back and figure out the durability issues. Why wasn’t the production as good? He had six interceptions as a freshman in 2019. He’s got the oily hips. He’s got the top-end speed; he has the length that you needed at the cornerback position. You know schematically is that what you’re looking for? Zone versus pure man-to-man. I mean, there’s a lot to work through here. But if you’re just going off of value and position need, I think Stingley makes the most sense.”
Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas’s history with valuing cornerbacks
Robert Saleh was never in charge of the draft room in San Francisco as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator between 2017 and taking the Jets job in 2021, but you can guarantee he had an input around the prospects to target.
Over the four drafts that Saleh was in San Francisco the 49ers never took a first-round corner. They didn’t even come close. Their highest-drafted cornerback was Ahkello Witherspoon out of Colorado in the third round of the 2017 draft.
Look back at Joe Douglas‘s history in Philadelphia where he served as the Vice President of Player Personnel between 2016-2019. The Eagles never took a first-round corner in that timeframe. Sidney Jones in the second round of the 2017 draft was as close as they came.
Between 2000 and 2014, Douglas was a scout with the Ravens. In all of those drafts, Baltimore only took a corner in the first round once, and that was Jimmy Smith at 27th overall in 2011. That’s it.
Robert Saleh and Joe Douglas’s emphasis on winning up front
Saleh’s biggest accomplishment to date is taking the San Francisco 49ers all the way to the Super Bowl in the 2019 season. He did that with a secondary made up of Witherspoon (3rd round), K’Waun Williams (UDFA), Richard Sherman (5th round), D.J Reed (5th round), Emmanuel Moseley (UDFA), and Dontae Johnson (4th round).
He also did that with a front seven that featured the likes of Nick Bosa (1st round), Arik Armstead (1st round), DeForest Buckner (1st round), Dee Ford (1st round), and Solomon Thomas (1st round).
No two circumstances are ever the same, but people learn from previous experiences. Saleh has learned that the way forward is stacking the defensive line to generate pressure up front while coaching up the defensive backs who can learn to play your system the way you want it to be played.
It’s tough to envision the Jets selecting Derek Stingley early
With Saleh and Douglas each coming from organizations that did not prioritize taking cornerbacks early, I don’t understand why the Jets – who have spent the last year coaching up their young corners and giving them valuable reps – would select a corner in the top 5. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
Especially when that corner – as talented as he is – has only played 10 games over the last two years and has zero interceptions and two touchdowns allowed over that period.
Can I see the Jets potentially bringing in a veteran to the group? They didn’t do it last year but I could see that.
Could I see them selecting another outside corner at some point in the draft? Yeah, I could see that too.
Will they take a corner in the top 5? I’d be shocked. Not surprised. Shocked.
This isn’t an anti-Stingley post. I really like DSJ as a player and think he has a bright future if he lands in the right situation. I just don’t believe it should or will be with the Jets.