When the Packers selected Eric Stokes in 2021 there were some mixed reviews (as with every first round pick they take). While everyone knew Green Bay needed an upgrade over Kevin King, there were also concerns at linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, and of course wide receiver. After Jaire Alexander got injured in week 4, there were no more mixed reviews.
After a very brief look in week 1, Eric Stokes quickly increased his snap count. He jumped from 8 snaps (13%) in week 1, to 44 snaps (77%) in week 2 and with a Kevin King injury in week 3 he played all 70 snaps. The injury may have given Stokes a nudge, but it was quickly apparent to everyone watching that he was the second best cornerback on the field. And two weeks later, he would be the best cornerback on the field.
Thanks to Alexanders’s unfortunate injury, Eric Stokes was quickly thrust into the CB1 role after starting the year at CB4. At 22 years old, Stokes was going head to head with some of the best athletes in the world. This included the likes of Justin Jefferson, Jamaar Chase, Tyreek Hill, and many others. Were there some rookie blunders? Yes. But no one can deny Stokes outperformed his expectations.
Stokes did not blink in his new role Amongst rookie corners with minimum 200 snaps, he racked up leading numbers despite often guarding the top receivers on opposing teams. According to PFF, he led this group in completion percentage (51%), forced incompletions (12), and yards allowed after catch per receptions (2.69). He was also second in snaps per reception (12.5) and opponent passer rating (78.8). These are amazing numbers for any rookie, much less one tasked with the role of CB1.
There is nothing that points towards Eric Stokes not being able to continue to thrive in his role as CB1. The best part? Green Bay doesn’t need him to.
Eric Stokes would be CB1 on more than half the teams across the league, but on the Packers he will be CB2/CB3. Jaire Alexander may be coming off of injury, but he is an All-Pro level talent that can travel the field and shut down the best of the best. That means that Stokes and fellow cornerback Rasul Douglas can lineup with second and third receiving options and absolutely shut them down.
As Stokes learns to harness his instincts and capitalize on his speed, Packer fans can expect to see more turnovers, less mistakes, and an even bigger payoff of a pick.
Then we win.
PJ is an Ohio native who was fortunate enough to be born into the green and gold family through his father who grew up in Green Bay. He now resides in NYC where he is an avid fan and fantasy football player. You can follow him on twitter at @roden_pj.