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'The Ball is Mine': LSU CB Derek Stingley to Texans at No. 3 in NFL Draft

The Texans have found their next star defensive back with the selection of LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr.

HOUSTON -- Derek Stingley Jr., welcome to Houston.

With the third overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Texans swing big in finding their next premier cornerback with Stingley. The LSU cornerback rapidly moved up draft boards following his stellar pro day earlier this month. 

And he's fired up to be here.

“When the ball is in the air with me, that’s mine,'' Stingley said immediately after being selected. "My personal goal to go out there and compete with everyone.''

Stingley, 20, is best known for his 2019 season as LSU's top defensive player on the way to a perfect 15-0 season. As a true freshman, he recorded a team-high six interceptions to go along with 15 pass deflections and 37 total tackles. 

Derek Stingley
Derek Stingley
Derek Stingley Jr.

LSU won a national title in large part due to his efforts in shutting down receivers throughout the regular season. According to Pro Football Focus, opponents completed just 37 percent of passes for 6.6 yards per attempt, the lowest among cornerbacks that year. For his efforts, Stingley was named a first-team All-American. 

Injuries have hampered Stingley's production over the past two seasons. He was limited to seven games in 2020 due to a shoulder injury and would only play in three games a year later. Stingley would undergo season-ending surgery to repair a Lisfranc foot injury suffered against Mississippi State. 

Scouts initially believed that the 6-foot defender would hear his name called somewhere between the 15-20 range. After LSU's Pro Day — in which in ran a 4.4 40-time and posted a 37.5-inch vertical — he began to flutter back into the conversation of being a consensus top 10 pick. 

“I just wanted to show that nothing has changed the last couple of years,” Stingley said earlier this month.

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The Texans have been keeping a close eye on Stingley throughout the draft process, visiting with him in Baton Rouge at the Tigers' Pro Day. Texans general manager Nick Caserio and coach Lovie Smith were both in attendance and later hosted the shutdown corner as one of the team's top-30 visits. 

Smith, who has seen his fair share of talented cornerbacks, including Pro Bowler Charles 'Peanut' Tillman, was adamant this offseason about addressing the cornerback woes from a season ago. Although Houston finished 23rd in pass defense, the constant turnover on the outside remained a lingering problem for the 31st ranked defense. 

"Our play at the cornerback position last year was not good enough, it’s as simple as that," Smith said earlier this month. "If we brought somebody back, we have faith in them.

"We can’t play the type of football that we want to play until we get better at the cornerback position, I will say that.”

Houston now has some stability in its cornerback room. The Texans re-signed Desmond King on a two-year deal this offseason and brought in former Philadelphia Eagles corner Steven Nelson. King is versatile enough to play both on the boundary and in the nickel. Nelson served as the Eagles' No. 2 last season opposite Darius Slay.

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 Stingley, however, will be viewed as the team's new shutdown top defensive back right out the gate. Several scouts believe his best player comparison is Indianapolis Colts corner, Stephon Gilmore. 

The Texans are looking to remain on the top teams in terms of takeaways next season after recording 25 last fall. Adding Stingley to the perimeter strengthens those numbers on paper, but how he translates to the league early could be a telling sign. 

Houston currently owns 10 picks in the draft, though Caserio said during his pre-draft meeting that "I wouldn't hold my breath" in terms of using every pick. The team's next pick is set to be at No. 13 baring a trade.