2022 NFL Draft Cheat Sheet: Cornerbacks

Derek Stingley Jr., LSU

I think Derek Stingley might be a victim of his own hype. Coming out of LSU’s undefeated 2019 season, Stingley was viewed as the best corner in the country as a true freshman, and perhaps the top player in this draft class. Stingley is a sticky, lanky corner, with elite lockdown potential. The NFL’s website describes him as “uniquely gifted” and I wholeheartedly agree. He possesses top tier measurables and athleticism, and that 2019 tape is some of the best work I’ve ever seen out of a college corner. Stingley has it all.

But, he doesn’t always showcase the fact that he has it all. And, in my eyes, that’s a massive red flag. You can have all the physical talent in the world, but if a coach can’t get you to care, that’s the end of the story. Just ask JaMarcus Russell. Do I think Stingley will bust as swiftly and as thoroughly as Russell? No. But the effort concerns are certainly there, and they are widespread throughout Stingley’s game. He should be the top corner on my board, but I can’t justify it with the effort concerns and tackling inefficiencies he displays.

Comparison: If Stingley hits, he’s one of the best corners in the league. With his length and ball skills, think Patrick Peterson.

Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati

Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner has the best name in the draft, and I’d put him up there with some of the best draft names of all time. As for how he plays, I think he’s the top corner in this class, and one of the best defenders overall. He never once allowed a touchdown to the man he was covering while he was at Cincinnati. At 6’3, he has the length to contend with even the NFL’s biggest receivers. He might be a bit skinny, but he is suffocating while he’s on a receiver in man to man coverage.

I love Gardner as a prospect, he’s currently the top corner on my board, but he’s not the cleanest when it comes to technique. He’s shown improvement, but the concerns I have with Stingley’s effort are the same concern I have with Sauce’s weird disregard for footwork and technique. The difference here is that I think Gardner has the drive to get better. You can teach footwork and better technique. You can’t teach how to care about getting better, and that puts Sauce over Stingley for me.

Comparison: Sauce’s ball skills and size give me the vibe of a very raw, and probably not quite as good, Richard Sherman.

Trent McDuffie, Washington

Sauce Gardner might be my top cornerback in this class, but Washington’s Trent McDuffie is my favorite. Frankly, it’s not even a competition. I don’t care that he’s probably only 5’10, McDuffie plays with an aggressiveness and tenacity that I wish carried over to his cornerback classmates. What McDuffie lacks on paper, he makes up for when you watch him on tape. He’s a chihuahua who plays like an angry pitbull, and I love what he brings to the table.

That’s just it, though. McDuffie is always going to have physical limitations. He’s billed by the NFL at 5’11, and watching him on tape, I don’t believe that for a second. He’s going to get bodied by some of the league’s bigger wide receivers, and that might lead to some durability concerns at the next level. He never had to deal with much professional-level talent while at Washington. I have confidence in McDuffie as a player, I think his aggressiveness and demeanor will carry him to the next level, but his height and weight do give me some concern.

Comparison: Watching McDuffie, I see an exceptionally angry Denzel Ward.

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