Many a draft prognosticator had Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner as the top cornerback coming off the board.
The Houston Texans saw it another way when they selected LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. with the No. 3 overall selection of the 2022 NFL Draft.
What was the plan? Well, as Texans head coach Lovie Smith told Stingley, it’s for the No. 3 pick to go up against every opponent’s No. 1 receiver.
Smith said as much to his rookie defensive back just before Stingley was drafted in a moment captured by NFL Films.
“Hey, Derek, you excited man?” Smith asked.
“Yes, sir, I am. Thank you,” Stingley replied.
“I’ve got a plan for you,” Smith said. “How about going to the No. 1 receiver every time. Sound good?”
“Sounds good to me,” Stingley answered.
"I knew it was gonna be early."
Derek Stingley Jr. gets the call from the @HoustonTexans 📞 (via @NFLFilms) @stingjr
Season finale of #HeyRookie airs on ESPN2 today at 3:30pm ET pic.twitter.com/geNVHYN9im
In a mammoth rebuild of the franchise, Stingley stands as one of the most important building blocks going forward.
Questions aplenty came with the selection of Stingley, and not just that he was picked before Gardner. He was phenomenal as a freshman at LSU, but never showed that same form in his two seasons thereafter, which included him playing only three games during his 2021 junior campaign as he battled an injured left foot.
Perhaps the most symbolic statistical symbol of Stingley’s college tenure was that he had six interceptions as a freshman and none as a sophomore or junior.
But Smith and Co. have a plan for him and high hopes. He’ll presumably be lining up against the opposition’s top wideout each week.
Nonetheless, the excitement and emotion conveyed by Smith and Stingley is an early sign of a promising pairing, one that might well be the first big step in transforming the Texans’ defense into an impressive unit. Perhaps, indeed, it is the first step forward in good things ahead for Houston.
“Just welcome to our team,” Smith said to Stingley. “We’re pretty pumped that we’re going to do a lot of good things, all right?”
“Yes, sir,” Stingley answered, moments before his selection was announced to the world.
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