The Georgia Bulldogs have had at least one first-round player in the NFL Draft for the past three years. Could Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes continue that tradition in the 2021 NFL Draft?
Eric Stokes NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Georgia
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 185 pounds
Eric Stokes heads to the 2021 NFL Draft as one of the highest-rated Georgia players in the class. His standing now is a far cry from his arrival in Athens just four years ago. A three-star recruit by 247 Sports, Stokes was the 63rd ranked cornerback in his class. Additionally, he was only the 65th ranked player in the state of Georgia.
His lowly recruitment ranking was the result of a multitude of things. He was seen as a track star that played football. In reality, Stokes saw himself as a football player who just happened to run track. Incidentally, he just so happened to run track extremely well. He still holds the Eastside High School 100 meter record at 10.39 seconds. Stokes was also a state champion in both the 100 and 200 meters.
His identity on the football field also hindered his recruitment prospects. Eastside used him as a running back and a receiver before he finally found his home at the cornerback position. As a senior, Stokes rushed for 279 yards and two touchdowns on 41 carries. He also had 183 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 16 receptions. Defensively, he had 20 tackles, one tackle for loss, two interceptions, and five passes defended.
The extremely raw cornerback saw only small school interest to begin with, however. Early offers came from Georgia State and Appalachian State before some SEC schools showed their attention. Ole Miss was among the first, and for a long time, it appeared that Mississippi would be his destination. On National Signing Day, however, Stokes sprung a surprise and committed to Georgia.
Eric Stokes’ college career at Georgia
Eric Stokes redshirted his first year in Athens. During that time, he found mentorship in the most recent Georgia cornerback to be a first-round selection in the NFL Draft, Deandre Baker. When his time came, Stokes would put the lessons from Baker to good use.
As a redshirt freshman in 2018, Stokes crafted out a role on special teams early on. However, impressive performances would see him start three of the final four games of the season. He finished the season with nine pass breakups, second on the team behind the man who had been his mentor.
With Baker departed for the NFL Draft, Stokes became a full-time starter at cornerback for Georgia. For the second consecutive season, he would have nine pass breakups, three of which came in a single game career-high performance against Tennessee. Stokes also added a sack and forced fumble in the game, with a ferocious hit on Tennessee quarterback Jarrett Guarantano.
During 2020, Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes elevated his play — and NFL Draft stock — to a new level. Although he’d flashed ball skills with pass breakups, a lack of interceptions blighted his box score. With interceptions against Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, and Missouri, Stokes finished second in the SEC and fourth in the nation for interceptions. Additionally, he turned two of the four into touchdowns.
Following a season that saw him honored as AP First Team All-SEC and a First Team All-American by 247 Sports, Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes opted out of the Peach Bowl and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Analyzing Eric Stokes’ NFL Draft Profile
It will come as no surprise that the one attribute that hindered Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes’ recruiting profile has turned to be one of his best attributes prior to the 2021 NFL Draft.
The speed that he exhibited at high school has transitioned into the college game. It allows him to be sticky in man coverage, with few receivers being able to out-run him down the length of the field.
Stokes also has excellent vision which helps him in zone coverage. He demonstrates a good understanding of where the ball is going, and can then utilize his speed to put himself in a position to make a play. Stokes also showcases good ball skills as evidenced by his pass breakup figures. He has the ability to get his hands through the arms of the receiver in order to break up the play.
Stokes loves to play the position with physicality and competitiveness. Although he is slight for his height, he showcases good tackling ability and has demonstrated the ability to blitz from the cornerback position. When you throw in his ability and experience of playing special teams, Eric Stokes has the makings of an exceptional NFL Draft prospect.
What are some potential concerns with Eric Stokes?
All NFL Draft prospects come with concerns and Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes is no exception. Although he has good ball skills, he could be even more productive if he becomes more efficient at retrieving the ball at the highest point. Too often he relies on body catches, which is one reason he hasn’t translated more pass breakups into interceptions.
At the NFL level, his physicality could result in penalties. He is very “hands-on” with receivers and can be grabby as the play unfolds. Although Stokes has largely gotten away with this at the college level, it is more likely to be penalized in the NFL. He also needs to learn to get his head around to look for the ball. His inability to do this could also result in penalties at the next level.
If he is to maintain his physical playstyle, Stokes could also benefit from adding around 10 pounds if he is going to mix it up with bigger wide receivers in the NFL.
Eric Stokes’ best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
Behind Patrick Surtain II, Caleb Farley, and Jaycee Horn, Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes could be the next cornerback selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. There are a number of cornerbacks in that “best of the rest” category including his own Georgia teammate Tyson Campbell. Stokes’ ability to play in a zone or man coverage scheme makes him a versatile and valuable commodity.
Which teams could realistically draft Stokes? In my latest mock draft, I paired Stokes with the Buffalo Bills in the first round. In his latest big board for Pro Football Network, Tony Pauline ranks Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes as the fourth cornerback in the class, his 39th overall prospect, with a second-round grade.
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