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Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft sends CB Derek Stingley to the Falcons

It’s officially Mock Draft Szn, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s latest sends arguably the top cornerback prospect in the draft to the Falcons at 8: LSU’s Derek Stingley.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 LSU at UCLA Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2021 NFL regular season coming to a close, it’s officially Mock Draft Szn for most teams. They’re starting to come in hot from all corners of the media landscape, including one from yours truly that dropped on Tuesday, and all are projecting very different things. With the Atlanta Falcons picking at 8th overall, there are a number of ways this could go at the top.

Popular names thus far have been OT Evan Neal, EDGE David Ojabo, CB Andrew Booth, DL DeMarvin Leal, and safety Kyle Hamilton. As you can see, there’s been a clearly tendency towards defense—which makes sense considering how bad Atlanta’s has been for the better part of the last decade. Today we got the first 2022 first-round mock draft from ESPN’s Mel Kiper, and it had a name I’m not accustomed to seeing at 8.

8. Atlanta Falcons

Derek Stingley Jr., CB, LSU

This was one of the toughest calls of the entire mock. I thought hard about a quarterback. My buddy Chris Mortensen, though, says the Falcons are committed to Matt Ryan for 2022, which means this might be too high to take a QB who’s not going to play right away. This is not a class full of surefire starting QBs. If David Ojabo was still on the board, I probably would have gone with him because the Falcons finished last in the league in sacks (18) this season. But there’s a little bit of a drop-off in the edge-rush tiers, and my next guy doesn’t have a top-10 grade.

So how about a cornerback to play on the other side of rising star A.J. Terrell? Stingley looked like a potential No. 1 pick when he was dominating as a true freshman on LSU’s national title team in 2019, but he was inconsistent in 2020 and then played just three games this season because of a foot injury. A team is going to have to take a little bit of a leap of faith with Stingley because he hasn’t played great for two seasons. The draft is all about upside, though, and he has the potential to be a superstar. I’m hoping he can work out at the combine to ease some concerns.

If you’re interested in checking out the rest of Mel Kiper’s mock, you can find it here. It does require ESPN+, however, which you can sign up for here.

LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. was once considered a top-3 pick in this class, before injuries and a COVID-shortened 2020 limited him to just 10 games over the past two seasons. After an outstanding freshman year featuring 6 INTs and 15 PD, Stingley just hasn’t looked the same as a player. Despite all that, Stingley is still firmly in the mix for a top-10 pick and remains the CB1 on many analysts’ draft boards.

Stingley has prototypical size at 6’1, 195 and pairs it with incredible athleticism. His ceiling is as high as any player in the class, and he could be a potentially-elite CB1 at the NFL level. The questions come from his injuries and lack of production over the past two seasons. Me personally? I prefer Clemson’s Andrew Booth—who isn’t quite as big, long, or athletic, but has been far more consistent and still offers a very good CB1 ceiling. But I can’t argue much with anyone who has Stingley #1.

This pick would give the Falcons an elite cornerback duo and finally give the defense a clear identity: that of an elite secondary. I’d be happy with that—although the team still needs to find ways to address the glaring issues with the pass rush. What are your thoughts on this selection for the Falcons at 8?