- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
As an NFL fan, you might not be ready to shift into draft mode.
But we like the idea of introducing some of the bigger-name prospects for the 2022 NFL draft now, at least giving readers a big-picture familiarity of how things stand now.
Had we written this one a year ago, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Trey Lance almost certainly would have made our top 10. All three went in the top 11 picks this spring.
A lot can change for even highly touted prospects over the course of a single season.
The 10 players we’re profiling here — five quarterbacks and five non-QBs — aren’t guaranteed to be first-rounders in 2022. But they’re prospects who enter the season with the opportunity to lock up that caliber of draft status — and perhaps also have the potential to tumble.
Let's start with one of the best defensive prospects in the country this season, a shutdown corner with an elite ceiling.
LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr.
6-foot-1, 195 pounds
2020 stats: 27 tackles (2.5 for losses), five pass breakups, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and no interceptions; six punt returns, 97 yards (16.2-yard average) in seven games.
As the No. 1 Rivals recruit in the Class of 2019, the Baton Rouge-bred Stingley wasted no time cracking LSU’s starting lineup as a true freshman for the eventual national champs, intercepting six passes in a brilliant debut season.
Four of those INTs came vs. quarterbacks now in the NFL (Jordan Love, Kyle Trask and Jake Fromm), and remarkably five of his picks were inside LSU’s red zone.
Stingley missed the 2020 opener with an illness and suffered other minor injuries that derailed him from repeating his success as a freshman.
Stingley is the son of a former Arena League safety (19 INTs in eight seasons) and minor league outfielder in the Philadelphia Phillies’ system, and the grandson of Darryl Stingley, the former New England Patriots first-round wide receiver.
Stingley Jr. is listed at +1100 to be the top overall pick in the 2022 draft over at BetMGM. That's the fourth-best odds of any prospect now, behind three quarterbacks — Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler, North Carolina's Sam Howell and USC's Kedon Slovis.
Stingley is a long, press-man corner with outstanding athleticism, eyes, footwork and natural coverage ability. In addition, Stingley is physical — unafraid to mix it up with big receivers.
He has been beaten deep on occasion, but his recovery speed shows out. It’s something every corner needs because no one sticks with their man 100% of the time. He also has the confidence to play aggressively and surprise quarterbacks with it.
Stingley looks like the total package with elite potential. His football bloodlines are strong, and he’ll be playing on a talented defense that’s expected to be more consistent following the dismissal of Bo Pelini as coordinator after a slew of blown coverages a year ago.
Stingley’s punt-return ability also is a big selling point, and the staff has discussed ways to get the ball in his hands in other ways, too. He’s a tremendous athlete who has the chance to be special.
He got off to a tough 2020 start after suffering an adverse reaction to shrimp and sports drinks, throwing his electrolytes and iodine levels out of whack and causing anaphylaxis, a source told Yahoo Sports. That landed Stingley in the hospital briefly prior to the season-opening loss to Mississippi State, but it’s not a concern this season.
Stingley played through other injuries last season before the staff encouraged him to sit for the Florida and Ole Miss games. He had trouble with Alabama's DeVonta Smith two straight years (who didn’t?), got tripped up some by Florida’s Van Jefferson (now with the Rams) in 2019 and had a rough outing in the loss to Mizzou in 2020.
Other areas where he can improve include his open-field tackling, showing a little more physicality at the line of scrimmage and proving that he’s still a playmaker after slipping from six picks in 2019 to zero last year.
Stingley is a prototype press-man corner who should be in a better position to thrive this season with new defensive coordinator Daronte Jones, who comes from the Minnesota Vikings and is expected to run a Mike Zimmer-style defense.
The Pelini-for-Jones swap has the team feeling more confident about its coverage issues from 2020. As one source put it, LSU this season isn’t “going to play double bracket every time against shallow crossers, you know?”
Playing opposite Eli Ricks, a possible future first-rounder down the road, should make Stingley and this secondary much improved — assuming he stays healthy. LSU faces several quality receivers again, which should provide great tape of Stingley versus elite talent.
Could Stingley play on offense, too? Yes, but we’ve been told that it’s unlikely to be a significant dual role.
There have been 11 corners drafted in the top 10 over the past decade. Stingley has a chance to be the next to join that group and is on the short list competing for CB1 honors in the 2022 NFL draft.
More from Yahoo Sports: