/don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it
/adjusts rainbow suspenders
So! Is everyone here Stoked about Stokes?
/exits stage swiftly while being pelted with tomatoes
On Day 1, the Packers stayed in the 29 spot and took Eric Stokes, cornerback out of Georgia. Unlike last year, the pick didn’t produce a collective gasp from the state of Wisconsin. Cornerback was seen as a need for the Packers even before the NFC Championship Game. And, while it might not have been the name some of us expected, taking a cornerback with the first pick is something that makes a lot of sense.
So, now that he is a member of the Green Bay Packers, who is Eric Stokes?
Eric Stokes is a CB prospect in the 2021 draft class. He scored a 9.38 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 112 out of 1784 CB from 1987 to 2021. https://t.co/a3Px7PFCvq #RAS via @Mathbomb pic.twitter.com/lq5ZlzK9wy
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 15, 2021
But an athletic score is just an athletic score. How does he look on the field? That’s what we’re going to dig into today.
I’m an optimist by nature, so if I’m going to highlight some bad plays, I like to put them first so that we end on a good note.
Stokes didn’t put many bad things on tape, but there are some negatives that show up.
One of the main issues with Stokes is his play at the top of short and intermediate routes. He can be a little stiff at the top and struggles to recover. A word I keep hearing in regards to Stokes is that he’s “sticky” in coverage, but that word does not describe his skills in this specific area.
On this play, he’s looking to pin the receiver to the outside. When the route cuts back to the inside, Stokes can’t get turned and resorts to attempting to grab.
He may not always grab, but it’s something that shows up more than once. The receiver puts on the brakes and Stokes flies by. He ends up recovering, but it’s far from a smooth process. An on-time throw would easily beat this. It’s something he’s going to need to clean up at the next level or he’ll find himself targeted with in-cutters and curls.
Playing for Kirby Smart, Stokes is used to playing in a complex defense. While there will be a mental adjustment to the NFL, the learning curve is not quite as steep as it may be if he played elsewhere. There is likely to be a lot of match coverages in Barry’s defense, and that’s an area Stokes is already well-versed in.
The Bulldogs are showing a two-high safety look pre-snap, but those safeties shift away from Stokes’ side after the snap. Stokes’ assignment is to carry the vertical route from his position. If neither of the routes to his side go vertical, then he is to fall into a deep zone coverage to his side. In his drop, you can see him reading the releases of both the outside receiver and the slot receiver. He continues his drop to his deep zone while reading. When it’s clear the outside receiver is running a vertical route, Stokes seamlessly transitions from a deep zone drop to man coverage.
In this play against Alabama, Stokes is reading the release of Cameron Latu . He’s initially looking to carry Latu vertically up the field. Once Latu commits to the crossing route, Stokes passes him off and drops deep and under the post.
But it’s not all about what someone is doing vertically. On this play, they’re looking to trap Alabama. Stokes is playing outside and it looks initially like he is going to carry the outside receiver vertically up the field. With the in-line receiver running a short, out-breaking route underneath, this could be easy money for the quarterback. After a few steps back, Stokes falls off the vertical route – which is now in the domain of the deep safety – and steps into the path of the out-breaker.
Of course, one of the biggest traits Stokes brings to the table is his speed. He ran a 4.25 40 at his Pro Day, and it shows up on tape. The Crimson Tide are selling the run, then sneaking Jaylen Waddle  through the line and releasing vertically up the seam. Stokes starts this play on the outside and is reading the backfield. He shuffles at the snap, looking to see what happens with the possibility of a run. When he sees Waddle streaking through the line, Stokes bails and sprints to keep up. Waddle is no slouch in the speed department himself – he ran a 4.37 40 – but Stokes easily recovers and catches up with Waddle down the field; no easy feat from his somewhat flat-footed position.
It’s because of his speed and ability to recover that allows him to take some chances. On this play, he reads the slant and immediately drives to undercut it for a potential interception. When the ball isn’t delivered on the slant, he peels off and plays over the top, putting himself in a position to make a tackle if the ball comes out in a later window on the route.
There are certainly some things to clean up – and there will be some bumps along the way as a result – but between his speed and intelligence, I believe he’s going to turn into a very good starter opposite Jaire Alexander. His college alignment had him playing strictly outside, and that’s where he profiles best at in the NFL, as well. Some patience will be required, but, by the end of his rookie season, I think everyone is going to be extremely happy with the pick.
Albums listened to: Lord Huron – Strange Trails; Luna Halo – Luna Halo; Julien Baker – Little Oblivions; Rage Against the Machine – Evil Empire; Haley Heynderickx – I Need to Start a Garden; Manchester Orchestra – The Million Masks Of God; HY-FY – HY-FY