When the Green Bay Packers selected Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes with the 29th pick, this marked the ninth time in the last 10 drafts where the team spent a first-round pick on a defensive player.
In four of the last seven drafts, that first-round pick has been a defensive back. This has been in large part to numerous misses in the draft and a defense that has under-performed for the better part of the last decade. So the Packers tried their luck once again with Stokes, hoping to secure their boundary corner of the future and complement to superstar Jaire Alexander.
It was no surprise to see GM Brian Gutekunst select Stokes, because as we all know he has a type in round one – a freak athlete at a premium position.
Stokes is a big corner (6-foot-1, 195 pounds), insanely fast (4.25 40 at his pro day), and has a tremendous 39-inch vertical. He is a former state champion in both the 100/200-meter dash in high school. Simply put, Stokes is a world-class athlete.
The Packers see Stokes as an ideal fit as a man-to-man corner on the boundary in Joe Barry’s scheme, which would seem to align with his role in college – evidenced by the fact he played close to 90 percent of his snaps on the boundary at Georgia.
Regardless where Stokes is able to get snaps early, one thing is clear – the Packers didn’t draft him in the first round to play second fiddle to anyone other than Jaire Alexander. They may choose to bring him along slowly but you can be sure that he’ll be playing the majority of snaps sooner rather than later.
So what do the Packers have in Stokes?
- Speed allows him to out-run mistakes/failed technique
- Difficult to beat deep
- Length helps him defend back-shoulder throws
- Speed, size, and aggressiveness should translate well to special teams covering kicks/as a gunner
- Great leaping ability to contest downfield throws
- Elite level sprint speed
- Comfortable pressing at the line
- Overall incredible athlete with all the tools to be successful (has all the traits you can’t teach)
- Inconsistent tackler
- Not great in run support (although he’s not afraid of contact)
- Doesn’t have fluid hips you’d like to see in a lock-down corner
- Not as quick jumping a wide receiver coming out of a break
- Slants and crossing routes seem to be routes he struggles with
- Gets a bit grabby (nine penalties at Georgia)
- Strength is below average
- More of a shadow corner than play-maker at this point (not necessarily a bad thing)
Stokes has gotten a plethora of opportunities in camp running with the ones for various reasons. It’s been well documented that Aaron Rodgers has been going at the rookie and forcing him to learn on the job. Hard to imagine a better situation for a first-round corner than learning from all-world corner Jaire Alexander, while matching up against the best receiver in the league – Davante Adams, who’s catching the ball from the best to ever spin it – Aaron Rodgers.
On Thursday, Packers wide receiver Davante Adams was asked his opinion of how the rookie first-round pick has performed to this point. Adams appeared to be quite impressed.
“He’s the closest thing to Jaire [Alexander] as far as mentality and ability from what I’ve seen so far,” Adams said. “The kid is fast as hell. He can get beat and recover, kind of like how Sam Shields would do.”
“I like what I see from him.”
That’s high praise from someone with the credibility Adams carries. It’s encouraging to hear that Stokes appears to have gotten off on the right foot, and should be locked into a key role for the Packers – both now and in the future.
Stokes has all of the tools to be a starting boundary corner in the NFL, and a world of opportunity in front of him. Expect Stokes to be CB2 in 2021 and beyond – becoming another yet another asset in an already-blossoming secondary.