Packers: How does Eric Stokes compare against fellow rookies?

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 rookie cornerback Eric Stokes is no stranger to pressure.

Stokes was put under immense pressure when tasked with covering LSU wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase one-on-one in the 2019 SEC Championship Game — when LSU quarterback Joe Burrow was at the height of his Heisman powers.

Stokes was thrown into the fire on draft day when he was selected 29th overall by the Packers — a few hours after ESPN’s Adam Schefter dropped his “accumulation of information” bombshell regarding Aaron Rodgers, which set the Packers fanbase ablaze.

It didn’t stop there for Stokes — how did the Packers ease the rookie into his first training camp? By lining him up against Davante Adams every single day, of course. Adams would routinely get the better of Stokes, but that’s not what mattered. The 22-year-old was learning.

Then four games into his professional career, Stokes was thrust into the spotlight as the Packers’ CB1 when Jaire Alexander went down with a shoulder injury. That’s a lot of pressure for one guy.

Luckily for the Packers, pressure is known to create diamonds, and that’s exactly what has happened in the case of Eric Stokes. The former Georgia Bulldog has been a reliable substitute for Alexander, good enough to bear the CB1 role for almost any other team in the league.

As we descend upon the business end of the football season, the sailing continues to get smoother for Stokes, who hasn’t surrendered a catch beyond 10 yards in over a month.

If the Packers were to do the 2021 draft all over again, maybe they would pick Creed Humphrey over Josh Myers at 62nd overall, maybe they would select Amon-Ra St. Brown ahead of Amari Rodgers at pick 86, but I don’t think there’s anyone they would rather draft at the back end of the first round over Eric Stokes.

In fact, if you were to do the 2021 draft all over again, I really don’t think Stokes makes it as far as pick 29. So how does he stack up those picked ahead of him?

Where does Stokes rank among the top rookies?

Obviously it’s way too early to fully determine any draft selection, but so far the 2021 class looks to be excellent, aside from whatever the quarterbacks are doing.

I wouldn’t class Stokes in the top tier of this draft just yet. Guys like Cowboys LB Micah Parsons and Chargers OT Rashawn Slater have been elite-level players already, with Parsons contending for the defensive player of the year award.

When it comes to his own position, Stokes was the fifth player off the board as the value of cornerbacks continues to increase year after year.

Jaycee Horn was the first cornerback selected and he looked terrific in his first three games before suffering a broken foot which has sidelined him ever since.

Broncos’ Patrick Surtain II has received a lot of credit for his class-leading four interceptions, however that’s far from the whole story. Surtain has faired similarly to Stokes through 14 games.

Titans’ Caleb Farley — selected 22nd overall — entered the draft with major injury concerns and has played just 60 total snaps across three games. He suffered a torn ACL that may cause him to even miss the beginning of next season.

Finally, we’ll hopefully see Browns CB Greg Newsome II in action on Christmas Day at Lambeau Field as he works his way out of concussion protocol. Newsome has been following a similar trajectory to Stokes and Surtain with a few poor performances sprinkled across a mostly impressive rookie campaign.

Is there anyone the Packers would rather have?

All of those guys mentioned were drafted before Stokes. He is matching the performance of many players selected in the early-to-mid first round. But what about the guys selected after Stokes?

Wide receiver Elijah Moore — drafted 34th overall by the New York Jets — would sure look like a pretty face on the Packers who have been hit hard with injuries to pass catchers at several points this season, and have a bleak looking future at the position.

The same would’ve been said of Browns LB Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah had it not been for the miraculous emergence of De’Vondre Campbell.

The Packers could never have anticipated their brutal injury luck along the offensive line, but Washington OT Sam Cosmi — a name heavily mocked to the Packers pre-draft thanks to his insane testing numbers — would be a welcome addition at tackle in front of Dennis Kelly.

All in all, there’s no option that looks convincingly better than Eric Stokes. Given the rarity of good cornerbacks in today’s NFL, Brian Gutekunst has struck gold twice in the first round, and the Packers look set at the position for years to come.