A Realistic Draft Path for Derek Stingley Jr. to Vikings

Derek Stingley Jr breaks up a pass as The LSU Tigers take on Central Michigan Chippewas in Tiger Stadium. Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. Lsu Vs Central Michigan V1 7424

Reading The Tea Leaves

At this point, it’s becoming elementary to read the tea leaves and come away with the conclusion that if he’s on the board at pick number 12, the Vikings will draft Derek Stingley Jr., the cornerback from LSU.

Not only is cornerback easily the Vikings’ most glaring need at this moment, but Stingley put out some of the incredible film we’ve seen from a college cornerback since fellow LSU alumnus and current Viking, Patrick Peterson. The Vikings also brought back Daronte Jones to fill the role of Defensive Backs Coach this season. Jones had spent the last season serving as Stingley’s Defensive Coordinator at LSU.

In the NFL Draft, Vikings Fans Want the King of Sting.
Derek Stingley Jr.

After a genuinely dominant true freshman season, which saw him win a national championship, Stingley has dealt with multiple injuries and has been accused by some of a lack of effort over the past two seasons. After showing us at his pro-day earlier this week that his foot is fully healed and he still looks like the easy, effortless athlete that he showed us he was in 2018, I can see why many Vikings fans are nervous that he won’t be available when the Vikings make their selection at pick number 12 overall.

So today, I wanted to examine the teams currently slated to pick in front of the Vikings, what their primary needs are, and how likely it is that they will be able to land the star LSU cornerback.

In the process, we will run through a realistic mock draft that ends with the Vikings not only being able to land Stingley but having their choice of whatever corner they have at the top of their board, whether that’s Stingley, Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner from Cincinnati, Trent McDuffie from Washington, or possibly even Andrew Booth Jr from Clemson.

#1 Overall – Jacksonville Jaguars

I don’t think we need to spend too much time here. All indications are that the Jaguars will take Aidan Hutchinson, the EDGE from Michigan. At this point, I’m convinced that we can write this one down in sharpie. However, on the off-chance they did go another route, I still think it would be either EDGE or offensive tackle with names like Kayvon Thibodeaux, Travon Walker, Evan Neal, and Ikem Ekwonu being the others to watch. But in this scenario, we’re keeping it chalk, and the Jaguars select Aidan Hutchinson #1.

#2 Overall – Detroit Lions

The Lions are one of the more intriguing teams to evaluate right now and will have a huge impact on how this first round plays out based on how they assess themselves. Depending on how they feel about Jared Goff and, more importantly, about the quarterback prospects in this year’s draft class, they could take a guy like Malik Willis right here.

But with pick #32 in the first round from the LA Rams, as well as their second-round pick at #34, unless they absolutely fall in love with one of these prospects, I think it’s most likely that they go with the best player available approach here and take whoever they have at the top of their board. While I don’t agree with most of the narratives being built around Thibodeaux, if there is any weight to it, I think that a somewhat old-school coach like Dan Campbell will prefer a guy like Travon Walker from Georgia, so that will be the projected #2 pick here.

#3 Overall – Houston Texans

The Houston Texans, even more so than the Lions, need to build a good roster, and that starts with taking the best players available, no matter what position. They seem to be set on riding with Davis Mills again for at least this season, if not moving forward. With the QB position out of the picture, and another pick at #13, I think that the Texans will truly take the best player left on their board, and just like Jacksonville at the top of the draft, I anticipate that being either EDGE or OT. In this scenario, I’m not buying the buzz about Kayvon Thibodeaux tumbling down the board, and he will be the pick here at #3 overall.

#4 Overall – New York Jets

This is the first pick that I can realistically envision being Derek Stingley Jr. However, with how the board is falling in this scenario, I think that the Jets will jump at their choice at OT between Alabama’s Evan Neal and North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu. I really like the flexibility that Ikem Ekwonu brings to the Jets’ offensive line, which just needs to improve around young franchise quarterback Zach Wilson.

Many are saying that if Ekwonu struggles at all at tackle, which I want to be clear, I don’t think he will, there is a chance that he could be a truly special offensive guard, a la Dallas’ Zack Martin, who played offensive tackle at Notre Dame before being drafted to play guard for the Cowboys. Taking all of that into consideration, in this mock draft, I’m going to have the Jets taking Ikem Ekwonu with pick #4.

#5 Overall – New York Giants

I see many differing options mocked to the Giants with their two first-round picks, from OT to EDGE, to CB, to WR. In my mind, though, until they trade James Bradbury, these are two of the easiest picks to mock. I think the Giants end up using one of the picks on the top available offensive tackle, and I think they use the other pick on their top-rated EDGE still on the board.

With the way the board has fallen, and it being a virtual lock that the Panthers won’t be drafting an EDGE here, the intelligent pick in my mind is to grab the top available offensive tackle. In my mind, I don’t think they would be able to pass up using #5 overall to select Evan Neal, the terrific OT prospect from Alabama who has experience starting on both sides of the line.

#6 Overall – Carolina Panthers

I don’t want to be too brutally blunt, but for the sake of everybody’s job in Carolina, this pick essentially has to be a quarterback. Which, in this draft class, is not a position that I would want to find myself in. At this point, all of the previous connections between Matt Rhule and Kenny Pickett, whom Rhule recruited heavily while he was the head coach at Temple, seem to be too clear not to make.

The only other realistic option for the Panthers with this pick other than QB if they remain at #6 overall would be to take the top offensive lineman available. That being said, I’m not going to spend any more time here, and the Panthers take Kenny Pickett, the quarterback from Pittsburgh at pick #6.

Mar 3, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett (QB11) goes through a drill during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

#7 Overall – New York Giants

After securing Evan Neal with pick number 5, I think the Giants would zero-in on EDGE here, and being intimately familiar with the type of players that former Vikings, now Giants Defensive Line Coach Andre Patterson typically covets, I believe he would be focused on two prospects: Jermaine Johnson Jr from Florida State, and Boye Mafe from Minnesota.

Both possess the fantastic blend of physical tools and athleticism that Coach Patterson has always desired to have at the EDGE of his defensive lines. At nearly 6’5″, 254 lbs, with 34″ arms, and a sub-4.6 40-yard dash, I believe that Coach Patterson loves the potential that he will see with a well-rounded, freakishly talented player in Jermaine Johnson Jr and pound the table for him. He will be the pick here for the Giants at #7 overall.

#8 Overall – Atlanta Falcons

This is another position that I believe will have a considerable impact on the remainder of the first round. The Flacons are content to go into the season playing Marcus Mariota at quarterback, whom Head Coach Arthur Smith has a previous connection with from his time in Tennessee. As long as that is the case, I think it is highly likely that this is where we see the first wide receiver come off of the board. Having their pick of the class has to be enticing, especially with the current state of that depth chart in Atlanta.

I could also see them valuing a unique prospect like Kyle Hamilton here regardless of perceived positional value much as they did with Kyle Pitts last season. They also need cornerback, so this is another possible spot for a team ahead of the Vikings to snag either Stingley or Gardner. Ultimately I think that the Flacons select the top available wideout on their board, and in this scenario, I have that projected as Garrett Wilson from Ohio State.

#9 Overall – Seattle Seahawks

This seems to be one of the favorite places for people to mock either Stingley or Gardner, and I understand why. The Seahawks have had a huge need at cornerback basically since the end of the “Legion of Boom” days. It’s easy to envision them falling in love with what they believe one of these talented young corners would bring to that defense. If they do decide to draft a cornerback, I honestly believe that they would be more intrigued by a guy like Ahmad Gardner, given the type of tall, long press corners that they have had success with in the past.

However, I still think that this is where we see our second quarterback be selected. No matter what they say publicly, I can’t imagine a world where Seattle is comfortable going into the season with Drew Lock at QB1. That being said, in this scenario, I think Pete Carrol will love the potential he sees for Malik Willis as a true weapon in the run game and all of the athletic tools to develop into a legit talent at the quarterback position. So, with the #9 overall pick, I have Seattle selecting Malik Willis, the quarterback from Liberty.

#10 Overall – New York Jets

This is where things start to get dicey for the Vikings’ hopes of landing Stingley in my mind. There is a good chance that the Jets will covet one of the top cornerbacks in this draft and scoop up Stingley here at #10.

However, I still think this draft for the Jets will be predicated most on solidifying the offensive talent around Zach Wilson and putting him in the best position to succeed and develop into the future star they envisioned when drafting him at #2 overall last season.

So with that in mind, I think they would jump at the chance to select whatever wideout they have sitting atop their draft board at this point, and with how this board has fallen, I think they would quickly turn in the card for Drake London. London is an extremely talented wide receiver from USC that would immediately give their young signal-caller a top target in the passing game.

#11 Overall – Washington Commanders

Washington is another team ahead of the Vikings with an unquestioned need at cornerback. However, they also have other needs that I could easily see them valuing more at this point of the draft. After spending what they did to acquire Carson Wentz, both in terms of draft capital and salary cap space, it’s clear that this pick won’t be a quarterback. As good as the front seven of this defense has been, the defensive backfield has been a bit of an Achilles heel.

Ron Rivera is also exactly the type of coach I can see watching a truly unique defensive prospect Kyle Hamilton tumble down the board and start to hold his breath with anticipation. I also think there is a good chance that they realize that the best option they have to succeed with Wentz is to secure as many high-end offensive weapons as possible to put around him in that offense and look at receiver prospects like Chris Olave from Ohio State or Treylon Burks from Arkansas.

In this scenario, I ultimately decided to have them go with the amazingly talented safety prospect from Notre Dame, Kyle Hamilton.

#12 Overall – Minnesota Vikings

We’ve made it to the Vikings pick, making what I believe to be very reasonable, realistic selections ahead of us. Not only is Derek Stingley Jr still on the board, but there hasn’t been a single cornerback selected yet. While I understand that there is a legitimate chance that one or even both of the top two corners in Stingley and Sauce Gardner could go before the Vikings make their selection at #12, I wanted to point out that it is far from the realm of possibility that we do land one of the top corners at pick 12.

I think there are a multitude of different ways this first round could play out in which the Vikings would be able to select Stingley if they are targeting him as much as seems evident, and I think Vikings fans should be excited about it.

Stingley has put together one of, if not the single most impressive seasons we’ve ever seen from a cornerback at any level, and it was as an 18-year-old true freshman at LSU. When it comes to corners, I agree with Sam Monson of PFF.com when he says that you need to analyze and bet on the peaks with cornerback play because of how volatile that position’s grades can be from a coverage standpoint. The fact that we’ve seen Stingley do it at as high of a level as we have — gives me the confidence to bet on the potential he has moving forward.

But What If…

Finally, I want to be very clear about one other thing, This year’s draft for the Vikings is in no way Stingley-or-bust. They have a ton of great options if they stay at #12, or decide to move down the board and pick up some extra draft capital.

Trent McDuffie from Washington is a phenomenal cornerback prospect as well, and more than worthy of the #12 pick. They couldn’t go wrong in my mind selecting virtually any position on defense, especially a unique talent like Jordan Davis or Kyle Hamilton if he were to fall into thier lap. Or they could take an extremely talented wide receiver prospect like Chris Olave or Jameson Williams, and not only add another weapon to this new-look offense but also keep one away from divisional opponent Green Bay.

No matter how you look at it, I am excited for this year’s Vikings Draft and think that new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Head Coach Kevin O’Connell will have a variety of options available to them come draft week.