by LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
DEREK STINGLEY JR (CB)
3rd Overall (Houston Texans)
Despite the debate, Sauce Gardner may have had the best name among the entire NFL Draft, but he wasn't the best cornerback.
While Gardner hasn't allowed a TD over his entire college history, he played at Cincy within a weaker conference compared to Stingley's weekly jaunt defending SEC receivers....the kind you face every Sunday.
Gardner only fell one spot behind Derek, chosen 4th overall by the Jets, although there'll be a feeling of relief mixed with vindication for Stingley and DBU fans everywhere.
There were national & local media doubts about Stingley's durability through injury, his lack of interceptions during his final 10 games at LSU, and questions over his Lisfranc problem continued unabated....
...However, when scouts or analysts gathered to watch his Pro Day in Baton Rouge, those in attendance were left stunned into submission.
One NFL scout told LSU Odyssey (on condition of anonymity) "everyone told me Sauce was better. I started to believe them, then I saw Derek. His speed, his length, his confidence, seeing it all up close, in person, I said 'that's the best corner in the Draft'. I had to make a few calls."
Settling matters by recording a ruthless 4.37 40 yard dash time (officially 4.44 but I have my doubts) and an outrageous 38.5 inch vertical leap, Stingley set impressive marks which not only erased any lingering doubts, but ranked at or among the combine's highest; Make no mistake, Derek was out to show the world he's still the same old phenom.
But on Draft day, there were concerns...
I felt like he would be shortchanged and drop in the Draft, all due to the hype surrounding Sauce Gardner as well as the injury talk, yet I was never worried about the truth behind the scramble-brain'd NFL Network analysis:
Whether he was picked in the top 5 or not, I knew Derek Stingley Jr was deserving of being a Top 5 pick....no question, in fact you could argue he's the best player in this Draft.
So, when his name was called 3rd overall by Houston, the AFC South franchise drafting yet another LSU Tiger, I was exceedingly happy.
Becoming the 49th 1st Round pick in LSU Football history, and the 6th 1st Round DB pick since 2011, Stingley Jr now stands at his rightful place alongside DBU legends such as LaRon Landry, Patrick Peterson, Tre' Davious White, and Jamal Adams.
This is a young man who's been through the highest of highs, the lowest of lows and everything in between during the past 2 years.....but in the end, the climax to Stingley's LSU story feels more than right....it feels just perfect.
By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN
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