The injuries relate only to LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr.

Derek Stingley Jr. will not be on the field in Indianapolis on Sunday with the other defensive backs from the NFL Scouting Combine. The LSU cornerback is still coming back from a torn ligament in his left foot that required surgery in September.

While teams won’t be able to see Stingley run or jump or do anything else on Sunday, he’s confident they’ll realize he’s the best cornerback in the 2022 NFL Draft.

“I know myself and I know that when I’m at the best version of myself, I’m the best,” Stingley told reporters at the combine on Saturday.

Stingley is a fascinating prospect. He was widely considered the best cornerback in this year’s drafts by gurus, but he’s fallen off the charts lately and is ranked behind Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner by most now. It’s not about Stingley’s talent, it’s about his availability.

After a stellar 2019 season, Stingley has only played 10 games over the past two years. He was initially considered a possibility for the Jets with the No. 4 pick, but now it seems more likely he could go later. The Jets could catch him at No. 10, but general manager Joe Douglas is very cautious about players with injury histories.

Derek Stingley Jr.

Stingley was a freshman All-American in 2019, when he had six interceptions and 21 passes defended. But he didn’t play as well in the COVID-shortened 2020 season when he missed three games (two with an ankle injury, one with an illness). Last season, he suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot before LSU’s fourth game of the season. He was operated on September 26.

The decline of his play from its first year to its second year raised some questions.

“Going into my sophomore year and throughout my sophomore year, I felt like it was as good as my freshman year,” he said. “In first year, I had more than 90 targets. In sophomore year, I turned 30. If anything, that should just say I was doing my job.

Stingley, whose grandfather was former Patriots wide receiver Darryl Stingley, said no team at the combine has expressed concern about his foot injury. He met the Jets and Giants this week in Indianapolis.

The 20-year-old said the initial recovery time was four to six months. Stingley plans to participate in LSU’s pro day on April 6.

“My rehab is ahead of schedule right now,” Stingley said. “I’m on pace to do what I have to do on the pro day.”

At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Stingley is the perfect size for a corner. The Jets found depth with their young cornerbacks last season, but they need a true No. 1 in defense under head coach Robert Saleh. Stingley, if healthy, looks like he could be that guy. He might wow some people on pro day in April.

“I’m almost 100% right now, starting to run, starting to do some plants, going downhill, that’s really where I’m at,” Stingley said.

The Jets last took a cornerback in the first round in 2013 when they drafted Dee Milliner from Alabama. Milliner had a long history of injuries out of college, which former general manager John Idzik chose to ignore. It was a big mistake as Milliner struggled with injuries throughout his short career with the Jets. While Jets fans may still have scars from Milliner, the current regime has nothing to do with that pick and Milliner’s mistake should have no bearing on their take on Stingley.

Even though Stingley has things to prove to the teams ahead of the draft, he certainly isn’t lacking in confidence.

“I’m a great corner player and I can play in the zone too,” Stingley said. “Zone gives me eyes on the football so I can play on it.”

New York Post

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