Packers: First-round pick Eric Stokes is playing up to draft pedigree

Green Bay Packers, Eric Stokes - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay Packers, Eric Stokes - Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Green Bay Packers GM Brian Gutekunst did what Brian Gutekunst does, and drafted a freak athlete player a premium position in round one of the 2021 draft.

He puts a premium on drafting players with a skill-set that you can’t teach and working to develop them into high-end players at their respective positions.

So, Packers fans shouldn’t have been surprised when he selected Eric Stokes, a cornerback with sub-4.3 speed and an RAS of 9.37. The Stokes selection marked the ninth time in the last 10 drafts that the Packers selected a defensive player in the first round. In four of the last seven drafts, those picks were defensive backs – making it all the more important that the Packers hit on Stokes.

In recent years this strategy has served Gutekunst well, having selected the likes of Jaire Alexander, Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage, Jordan Love (need to see more), and now Stokes.

Of course, it’s far too early to declare the rookie cornerback a home run, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention just how impressed I’ve been with the first-year defensive back out of Georgia.

Stokes has played in 11 games thus far (missed the KC game due to injury), starting nine of them. Of course, this wasn’t initially the deployment plan for Stokes when they selected him, but the injury bug had other plans. Stokes was thrust into a starting spot, forced to learn on the job due to injuries suffered by Jaire Alexander and Kevin King, who just might just be made of glass.

It’s important to note that rookie corners usually aren’t good in their first taste of NFL action, but Stokes has proven to be an outlier for the Packers. It hasn’t always been perfect, but Stokes has clearly improved his technique and is using his all-world speed to shadow some of the league’s best on the boundary.

As it stands, Stokes is sixth in the NFL among cornerbacks in pass breakups with seven. He’s also been one of the league’s 10 most targeted corners. However, of those 10 most targeted players, Stokes has allowed the least amount of total yardage – with a 51.5% reception percentage – which is pretty damn impressive for a player who hasn’t even registered 700 total snaps in the NFL.

Talk about trial by fire for the rookie first-rounder. Stokes went from being groomed to one day being the team’s boundary corner, to full-fledged starting NFL cornerback on one of the top teams in the NFC.

And while it’s only been a small sample size, I feel comfortable saying the Packers found a good one that can only stand to grow from this experience. To me, Eric Stokes is living up to his draft pedigree, and becoming a core member of the Packers’ defense moving forward.

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