Eric Stokes could become immediate starter for Packers

Cornerback Eric Stokes (21) is shown during the first day of Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7fs8c7uf9igy3k8uhjf Original
Cornerback Eric Stokes (21) is shown during the first day of Green Bay Packers rookie minicamp Friday, May 14, 2021 in Green Bay, Wis.Cent02 7fs8c7uf9igy3k8uhjf Original /

The Green Bay Packers stayed true to their big board in the 2021 NFL Draft and selected the best player they felt was available. It just so happened that selection–Eric Stokes–happened to play a position of need for the defending NFC North Champions.

Stokes begins his professional career as a raw prospect.

He has excellent athletic abilities. His 40-yard-dash of 4.31 seconds turned heads and reinforced the elite speed scouts saw on the field. He also has excellent explosiveness with a 38.5-inch vertical jump and an impressive broad jump. When you add it all together his Relative Athletic Score (a combined measurement of all his physical testing that rates players on a 1-10 scale with 10 being the highest) was a 9.37.

Despite his elite straight-line speed and explosiveness, Stokes struggled in space. He couldn’t always stick with the shiftier wide receivers in college and wasn’t as adept at changing directions as he should be. His tackling also left a lot to be desired.

Green Bay Packers’ first-round draft pick Eric Stokes has a chance to become the Day 1 starter at cornerback opposite Jaire Alexander.

When you add it all together, you got a prospect with a high ceiling, but probably one who needs a year or two to improve and figure it out at the NFL level. However, Stokes is quickly changing that perception. He returned a pick-six in his first minicamp for the Packers, and ESPN’s Rob Demovsky speculates Stokes could be the opposite day starter at cornerback opposite Jaire Alexander.

That would be quite the accomplishment for the Packers’ top draft pick. Green Bay brought back Kevin King despite an ugly NFC Championship game and an up-and-down 2020 campaign. King has ideal size across from the smaller Alexander, but both his play and health have been extremely inconsistent throughout his career.

King has flashed the skills to be a rock-solid corner in the NFL, he just sometimes forgets he has to show up consistently. Tom Brady found him over and over in the NFC Championship game–a trend that was started earlier in the postseason. You can bet your bottom dollar teams are going to continue to target King, as Alexander completes his ascension to the NFL’s top corner.

If Stokes ends up pushing King, and even winning the second starting corner job, that would be a huge deal in Green Bay. King has been around the NFL for four years now and is an established NFL quality player. The Packers–with their Super Bowl aspirations–aren’t going to start a rookie for shits and giggles. If they do it will be because Stokes has truly earned that honor.

Next. Will Bakhtiari miss significant portion of the season?. dark

As the Packers continue their offseason activities, keep an eye on Stokes and his progress. He’s a tall, physical corner who is learning how to play different coverages at an NFL speed. It won’t always be pretty and there are sure to be learning moments. The question will be whether he can flash enough big plays to warrant him getting playing time over King.