Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones started a firestorm within his fanbase last Wednesday when he said he would be interested in trading up in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. This quote created a number of questions, but the most pressing was clear: for who? I believe there is a clear answer.
LSU Tigers cornerback Derek Stingley Jr had enormous hype around his name after his stellar freshman season in Baton Rouge. Since then, the hype has been steadily dying down after he failed to replicate his 2019 performance. This fact could be what opens the door for another Cowboys draft day steal.
The Cowboys’ depth chart struggles at wide receiver, linebacker, edge rusher, and offensive line are clear, and they certainly need to address those positions. However, if we take a look at their talent and depth at cornerback, it is abundantly clear that they need another long-term stud across the field from Trevon Diggs.
As if that weren’t reason enough, the recent legal issues surrounding second-year cornerback Kelvin Joseph certainly do not help the cornerback situation. Joseph has not been arrested in relation to a recent fatal shooting, but did have lengthy interviews with Dallas police officers and was confirmed to be at the scene of the crime. Joseph was expected to compete with Anthony Brown for a starting job in his second season, but his future may be up in the air given the recent news. Right now, it seems the former second-round pick won’t be legally implicated, but that does not mean the NFL won’t suspend him. It also could lead to Dallas moving on from him, especially if more comes out about his potential involvement.
Enter Stingley Jr. Not only would the Tiger potentially be a better option than Joseph (legal matters aside) but Stingley and Diggs could also give Dallas their best CB duo in years. At 6-0, 190 pounds, the 20-year-old LSU product has star potential and ability. For the last three years, he has been covering SEC stars, many of whom are now in the NFL themselves.
Should the Cowboys consider trading up for LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr?
Stingley’s 2019 season simply can not be understated. It was phenomenal, and his “woes” since then have had much more to do with injuries than a substantial decline in performance. Did Stingley have more subpar performances in 2020 and 2021 than in his freshman season? Yes. Are those struggles as poor as some make them out to be? Absolutely not.
In the two years since 2019, Stingley does not have an interception. However, it’s worth noting that teams threw at Stingley less than they did in 2019 because they were more aware of his presence and thus tried to avoid him more. This same thing will likely happen to the Cowboys’ All-Pro CB (Trevon Diggs) next season.
The problem with putting a star on Stingley’s helmet will certainly be how much it takes to move up for him. Mock drafts this week show him getting picked somewhere within the top 10 picks. But, we also heard that exact same thing for both CeeDee Lamb and Micah Parsons in their draft years. So, considering his recent “struggles,” the LSU product may fall lower than some expect.
So, why should the Cowboys consider trading up for him? Stingley brings top-tier athleticism, ball skills, lockdown potential, experience, ideal size, and an X-Factor that you can’t really name or identify. Not everyone can bring all of those attributes, and Stringley has them.
Stingley is a guy with immense NFL potential. Dan Quinn would certainly be able to shape this young player into an amazing cornerback, just like he did with Diggs. Adding the Tiger would elevate the secondary to levels it has not been at since the 1990s. The addition could even give the defensive line a boost with Diggs, Stingley, Jayron Kearse, and Malik Hooker blanketing receivers allowing Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence could become even more dangerous.
With the pass rush being a beneficiary of this selection, the focus would then be on WR and OL in the rest of the draft. This class has strong depth at receiver, and in some cases, on the offensive line as well. Guys like OL Luke Fortner from Kentucky and North Dakota State WR Chrisitan Watson can bring the ability Dallas needs with later picks.
Plus, let’s say the Cowboys decide to cut Joseph due to his current legal situation. That would pretty much ass the cornerback position to the list of dire needs. The starters would be the same as last year (Diggs, Brown, Lewis), but the depth would consist of Kyron Brown, Nashon Wright, and special teams ace CJ Goodwin. That is really not ideal.
If Dallas were to trade up for Stingley, it could quickly solve the talent issue, the depth issue, and could allow them to move either Brown or Lewis to free up over $5 million in cap space. They could use that to hunt the free-agent market for guys like Kyle Fuller, Xaiver Rhodes, Bryce Callahan, or former Cowboy Maurice Canady.
This offseason has been a struggle for Dallas. Nobody (besides the Joneses) is going to deny that. Moving on from Amari Cooper, Lae’l Collins, and more has significantly hurt the overall talent level on the roster. Would a Zion Johnson or Kenyon Green help? Absolutely. Does it really move a Dallas roster that can still compete in a Super Bowl-winning direction? Probably not.
As Cowboy fans, we can not be naive about where our team is right now. The guys on the field are going to be very different than years past, and there may be some struggles. In my eyes, the best way to combat that is to use this draft to elevate a position group from good to great. Drafting this LSU Tiger could propel the cornerback corps from average (at best) to elite.