Next up in the Unpacking a Future Packers countdown is Eric Stokes. The Georgia cornerback checks in at number one in the countdown.
The Green Bay Packers need to get Jaire Alexander a running mate. There may not be a better option for the Packers than Eric Stokes.
The Georgia cornerback is a player that the Packers could target with the 29th pick as they look to find a reliable cornerback to pair with their star cornerback.
Stokes came to Athens as a three-star recruit from Covington, GA. After redshirting, Stokes recorded 9 pass deflections in 2018.
In 2019, Stokes recorded one sack and nine pass deflections. This past season, Stokes broke up four passes and recorded four interceptions, including two pick-sixes.
Stokes is the definition of lockdown. He has the ability to take half the field away. According to Pro Football Focus, Stokes only allowed 145 yards and one touchdown this past season. He had five games where he gave up 10 yards or less in coverage. Stokes doesn’t give up the big play. He only gave up three touchdowns the past three seasons.
Stokes has been solid in coverage and has put up some excellent numbers, allowing just 145 total receiving yards across 299 coverage snaps in the SEC this past season. He managed four interceptions and 15 pass breakups over three seasons and just shy of 1,000 coverage snaps, which is a degree of playmaking that teams will want to see more of at the next level, but his ability to keep opposing receivers as quiet as he did for most of his college career is significant, especially when paired with that blazing straight-line speed.
Stokes is a sticky cornerback. As a former track star (4.29 40-yard dash), he doesn’t lose many footraces. He is able to turn and run with wide receivers, sticking in their hip pockets.
Stokes has fancy footwork. He’s so smooth in his backpedal. He plays through the wide receiver’s hands at the catch point. He has natural hands and his lack of ball production is a product of not being targeted enough during his Georgia career.
To go along with his world-class speed, Stokes has good length. He doesn’t give the receiver any room to breathe. He stays connected on top of the routes and suffocates passing lanes.
With his length and quickness, Stokes has the ability to matchup with the shiftier wide receivers and the Calvin Johnson’s of the world.
Stokes is a willing tackler in run support. He didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but he’s more than capable of sticking his nose in and being an asset against the run.
His best football is in front of him. He’s relatively new to the position. He started playing cornerback during his final year in high school.
In a loaded draft class, Dane Brugler pegged Stokes as the seventh-best cornerback. Here is what Brugler had to say about the Georgia cornerback.
“Stokes must correct his play recognition and transition flaws, but his size, speed, and promising ball awareness are undeniable and scheme-versatile traits that will help him compete for starting reps early in his NFL career.”
Fit with the Packers
Stokes has the length, speed, and physicality that teams are looking for in a lockdown cornerback. He has fluid hips to turn and run with wide receivers, sticking in their hip pocket.
When asked what Stokes could bring to an NFL secondary, Georgia head coach, Kirby Smart said speed. Stokes displayed that speed during Georgia’s pro day by clocking a 4.29 40-yard dash.
“Speed, speed, and more speed is the first thing he can bring,” Smart said. “He’s a high-character young man who has done so much for our program. People talk about the value he has on the field and the speed and the plays he’s had, but for all those things he’s great at, he’s a lot better person than anything else.”
Stokes is ready-made. He could step in from day one and start opposite Alexander. The Packers already have a lockdown cornerback in Alexander. If the Packers draft Stokes, it would give Joe Barry two cornerbacks that are capable of locking up the man across from them.