Green Bay Packers: A Look at Eric Stokes & What he Adds to the Defense

Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes (27) reacts after making a play during a game between Tennessee and Georgia in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, October 5, 2019.Utvgeorgia1005
Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes (27) reacts after making a play during a game between Tennessee and Georgia in Neyland Stadium in Knoxville, Tennessee on Saturday, October 5, 2019.Utvgeorgia1005 /

Not only did the Green Bay Packers need to try and upgrade the cornerback position for the 2021 season, but they needed to add to this room as well for future years, given the number of unknowns surrounding this unit. And to what should be the delight of Packer fans, they did that right away in this year’s draft, taking Eric Stokes from Georgia at pick 29.

As the draft approached, Stokes seemed to fly a bit under the radar, but he was a very Green Bay Packers-esque first-round selection. He plays a premier position, tested incredibly well at his Pro-Day, has good size, and experience. Frankly, more of us should have seen this one coming.

Stokes was a two-year starter for the Bulldogs and recorded almost 1,600 career snaps. He was a very solid and steady player during those two seasons, allowing a combined completion percentage of 56.9 percent on 93 targets and at 9.45 yards per catch. Stokes would display plus ball-skills, coming away with four interceptions — all of which came in 2020 — and nine pass breakups.

Perhaps even more impressive, is that in 2020 we saw Stokes flash that shutdown cornerback potential that he has. According to Pro Football Focus ($$), out of Stokes’ nine games this past season, he allowed less than 10 receiving yards on five occasions. If you go back and watch Stokes play, it’s clear that the game plan for most of Georgia’s opponents was to stay away from his side of the field–and he did all of this against some elite SEC wide receiver talent.

Stokes is a scheme versatile defender, playing press-man, off-man, and zone–and in this new Joe Barry defense, we should expect to see a lot of zone from this Packers team, but Stokes provides Barry with added flexibility.

Looking ahead to the start of the new season, there is certainly the possibility that Stokes is CB2 come Week 1. However, with Kevin King, the Green Bay Packers can start Stokes out in a more reduced role if needed, as he transitions to life at the NFL level.  Alexander still saw a good amount of playing time during the first four games of his rookie season, but it wasn’t until Week 7 when he returned from injury, that he was on the field for 100 percent of Green Bay’s defensive snaps–perhaps Stokes takes a similar path.

To put a bow on all of this, let’s take a more in-depth look at Stokes’ game and what he adds to the Green Bay Packers defense. Here is what a few draft analysts had to say about him in their pre-draft reports:

Drae Harris – The Draft Network

"“From 2019 to 2020, Eric Stokes has certainly improved at being more opportunistic with regards to securing turnovers. He can mirror from a press position, but he can afford to clean up his technique—particularly his eye discipline in man coverage and getting “grabby” at the top of the route. He has shown the ability to play in man or zone from a press and occasional off position, but he does not play to his high-level timed speed with his play. He’s not a dynamic closer at the top of the route and lacks elite short-area, stop-and-start agility. His skill set may be best suited in a predominantly zone situation where he can play with vision and utilize his ball skills to make plays.”"

Lance Zierlein –

"“Depending upon scheme, need or preference, Stokes offers teams the potential to play him outside or from the slot. Speed and quickness should allow him to stay with route runners or within close-out distance when he gets behind. Stokes played with better press technique in 2020 and he’s willing to get physical near the goal line, but his play strength is below average. While there have been mild flashes of playmaking potential, he’s more likely to play the receiver rather than attacking the football and looking for takeaways. He’s twitchy in tight quarters with the potential to become more disruptive in zone. His size, speed and athleticism could make him a Day 2 pick as a future CB3, but his weakness as a run defender will be challenged quickly by NFL offenses.”"

Tony Pauline – Pro Football Network

"“Positives: Underrated cornerback with the size and play speed to start in the NFL. Physical, battles opponents throughout the route, and tracks the ball in the air. Possesses excellent length, effectively diagnoses the action, and has a closing burst. Possesses good hands for the interception. Easily runs downfield with opponents. Gives effort defending the run and wraps up tackling.Negatives: Doesn’t flip his hips off the line and loses a half-step transitioning with opponents. Gets a little grabby in coverage.Analysis: Stokes possesses terrific measurables and has shown developing ball skills. He’s effective facing the action while also displaying the ability to make plays with his back to the ball. Stokes comes with a large upside and offers potential in nickel packages early in his NFL career, and he could eventually develop into a first-team player.”"

Pro Football Focus ($$)

"“One thing is for sure: Georgia is going to miss Stokes in its secondary. He’s been easily the most consistent corner in the SEC outside of Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II over the past three seasons. In 2020, Stokes had five full games where he allowed fewer than 10 yards. He goes about his business very quietly and rarely gives opponents clean opportunities. He’s no stranger to college football’s lack of an illegal contact penalty, though, and does a lot of his dirty work via contacting receivers. He might struggle transitioning to the NFL when that’s not the case.”"