The Green Bay Packers had one of the top pass defenses in the league in terms of yards per game in 2020, but had a relatively mediocre 11 interceptions, tied for 20th in the NFL. The team addressed the need for more playmakers in the secondary with the selection of Eric Stokes with the 29th pick in the NFL Draft.
A two-year starter at Georgia, the 6’ 1”, 185-pound Stokes lined up at right corner in the Bulldogs’ 3-3-5 defensive scheme. A versatile player, Stokes quickly learned to corner position in the SEC after playing quarterback in high school. Stokes had his best season last year, intercepting four passes, returning two for touchdowns. Perhaps even more impressive is that Stokes allowed less than 40 percent completion percentage on balls thrown his way.
With the use of excellent speed, Stokes won’t get beat often on fly patterns. He had great football, body control and competitiveness. However, at times he can get overly aggressive and/or panic, as was seen with his nine penalties at the collegiate level. Stokes has a knack for the ball, and can play inside against slot receivers as well as outside.
Stokes can also be used on a secondary blitz since his straight-line speed is impressive and has shown to be a solid tackler, recording 78 in 31 games at Georgia. Likely to get beat off the line, at least early in his career, Stokes has tremendous speed to recover.
An All-SEC Team member last season, Stokes enters the NFL like competing for the number three corner spot behind Kevin King and All-Pro Jaire Alexander. He’s likely most suited early in his career to fill a role in the nickel defense.
Packers’ general manager Brian Gutekunst looked at this pick for how it can help down the road. Realizing the team has only one corner under contract for next year, it was imperative to add depth. Gutekunst liked the progression he saw out of Stokes and particularly was impressive with his explosiveness and strength. He sees a lot of fight in Stokes, that we will give whatever he has on every snap. The 4.25 and 4.28 40-yard dash times at Georgia pro day indicates the world-class speed that Stokes possesses.
Some experts believe that Stokes lacks the ability in short areas, and not great at closing at the top of the routes. Of course, those are skills that Stokes can improve at the NFL level. For now. He is best suited for a zone-type defense where he can use his superior vision and speed to break on balls and make plays.
The Packers needed to address the secondary and couldn’t have done better with such a late pick in the first round. Stokes should see playing time early and often in his rookie season.