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The Green Bay Packers have a rocky history when it comes to selecting corners early in the draft. However, Green Bay hopes they made the right decision with this year’s first-round pick Eric Stokes. Rather than trade up or back, Brian Gutekunst selected the Georgia speedster with the 29th overall pick after he had a dominant year playing for one of the best defenses in the nation.
Stokes’ speed already gives him a strong baseline for playing corner in the NFL. Not many wide receivers will be able to exploit the 4.2 speed he displayed at his pro day. Of course, speed isn’t everything, and his tape shows that Stokes needs to learn to control his speed a little better to reach his full potential. However, that speed enabled Stokes to become one of the best college man corners in 2020. In fact, from a statistical standpoint, he was the best.
According to Pro Football Focus, Stokes allowed a passer rating of 18.5 in man coverage last season. It was the lowest of any corner with at least 100 snaps. That statistic is even more absurd when you consider the talent Stokes faced in the SEC.
He’s already gone through a gauntlet of NFL talent in Jerry Jeudy, Justin Jefferson and Devonta Smith. Stokes more than held his own against all of them, and it is these performances he will draw from during his rookie season.
Stokes obviously has a long way to go before he is an established man-to-man corner in the NFL. But from a future outlook, when you look at his past body of work while considering that Stokes has only played corner for four years, he certainly has a bright future. The Packers drafted Stokes knowing he will learn from one of the best man corners in the game in Jaire Alexander.
Watching Alexander will help Stokes play more under control as he learns what to look for out of opposing wide receivers. In 2020, no starting corner received a better coverage than Alexander, per PFF.
Assuming Stokes’ coverage ability translates to the NFL, when he and Alexander are on the field together, Green Bay’s defense could have two premier man-to-man corners.