In one of the more surprising picks of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans selected cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. Stingley is one of the best cornerback prospects in this draft class, and he immediately adds some excitement to an otherwise sleepy Texans roster.
Expectations will be sky-high for the LSU product this season, as he's Houston's first first-round pick since the 2019 NFL Draft. Stingley's rookie year will be closely watched, so here are three early predictions for his first campaign in the big leagues.
Predictions for Derek Stingley Jr. in rookie season with Jets
Stingley won't play more than 15 games
Injuries were a consistent problem for Stingley during his time at LSU. He only played three games in the 2021 season because of a torn ligament in his foot, and also missed a handful of games during his sophomore season with ankle and head injuries. This is one of the main concerns for the Texans taking Derek Stingley third overall in the draft.
Now, he'll move up to the NFL level, a considerably more physical, demanding game than any sort of college football. It doesn't help that ankle injuries tend to re-aggravate easily. It's hard to see Stingley staying healthy throughout a full 18-game season, especially since this is his rookie year.
Stingley will start off the season poorly
Stingley will probably struggle at the start of his career, just like many other young cornerbacks. It's incredibly difficult to adjust to the speed and strength of NFL wide receivers, even for a guy who played his college ball in the SEC. Stingley also doesn't have the benefit of a good defense around him. The Texans will struggle to rush the passer this season, which always hurts the secondary. Houston's run defense will also be terrible, making things even harder for anyone playing cornerback.
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While Stingley will probably have some trouble early in the season, he should right the ship fairly quickly. He's too good of a player to not adjust quickly, and five of the Texans' late-season games are against teams that look quality receiving threats. Houston faces the Indianapolis Colts, the Chicago Bears, and the Tennessee Titans towards the end of the season. All three of those teams should provide Stingley with easy matchups to help finish out his rookie campaign.
Stingley will be the best defensive player on the Texans by the end of the year
To be honest, there isn't all that much competition for Stingley in this category. There isn't another defender of note currently on the Texans, except maybe fellow cornerback Desmond King II. Many of the defensive players on Houston are well past their primes, leaving them little room to improve in any way. Stingley is one of the only young players who actually has a chance to become one of the best players at his position. He should have plenty of opportunities to improve, as he'll almost surely be going up against the opposing team's best receiver in every single game. That trial by fire will lead to rapid development for Stingley, and he'll end the year as the clear-cut leader of the Houston defense.