Saints 2021 Draft Prospects: Eric Stokes

Will this star SEC cornerback sprint his way into the 1st round of the NFL draft, possibly landing in New Orleans?
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Marshon Lattimore has been one of the NFL's best cornerbacks since the New Orleans Saints selected him with the 11th overall pick of the 2017 draft. Lattimore has consistently shut down the league's top receivers in one-on-one assignments. That ability has allowed the Saints to be more aggressive with their defensive packages.

New Orleans picked up CB Janoris Jenkins late in the 2019 season. Jenkins paired with Lattimore to give the Saints one of the league's best tandem of corners. The duo helped New Orleans lead the NFL in interceptions and finish 5th in pass defense, their highest ranking since 2013.

Jenkins was released this offseason in a salary cap move. His loss creates a huge void at the position opposite Lattimore. Luckily for the Saints, this year's draft class of cornerbacks looks extremely deep in talent. As many as five corners could be drafted in the 1st round. Up to six more will be selected in rounds 2 or 3 on the second day.

With the 28th overall selection in the 1st round, the Saints could trade up to grab top prospects Jaycee Horn of South Carolina, Greg Newsome of Northwestern, or Virginia Tech's Caleb Farley. If they stand pat, they might have their eye on today's draft spotlight.

ERIC STOKES, CORNERBACK (GEORGIA)

Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes (27) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee receiver Jauan Jennings (15) © Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel , Knoxville News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes (27) breaks up a pass intended for Tennessee receiver Jauan Jennings (15) © Brianna Paciorka/News Sentinel , Knoxville News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

6’1” 194-Lbs

Pro Day 40m = 4.25

Pro Day Vertical Jump = 38.5”

Stokes was looked at as a track star at Eastside High School in Georgia, where he won state titles in the 100m and 200m. He was recruited by smaller schools for his skills as a running back and wide receiver, but committed to Georgia. After taking a redshirt his first year, Stokes would start three of the last four contests in 2018. He had 20 tackles in nine games of action and tied for the team lead with 9 passes broken up.

As a redshirt sophomore in 2019, Stokes again led the Bulldogs by breaking up 9 passes while adding 38 tackles and a sack. He would be even better as a junior, finishing as a 2nd team All-SEC selection. Stokes led Georgia with 4 interceptions and returned two for scores over nine games in 2020, second most in the conference, while breaking up 4 throws and recording 20 tackles.

Tennessee quarterback Brian Maurer (18) fumbles the ball while sacked by Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes (27) © Saul Young/News Sentinel, Knoxville News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Tennessee quarterback Brian Maurer (18) fumbles the ball while sacked by Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes (27) © Saul Young/News Sentinel, Knoxville News Sentinel via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Stokes has a thin frame, especially lower body, that can be detrimental against bigger, stronger receivers in close quarters. That frame is also a liability in run support, where he gets overwhelmed on off-tackle plays in his direction.

Despite his tremendous athletic ability, Stokes has too much wasted motion on his backpedal and transition to cover breaks, also causing him to get grabby once he falls behind. He can be hesitant in reacting to developing plays in front of him, something he must improve to create more turnovers.

Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Eric Stokes (27). Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Eric Stokes (27). Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Stokes has the height and athleticism to be effective both inside and outside. His world-class speed gives him amazing recovery abilities and allows him to stay with anyone in deep coverage. He’s a natural in press coverage and will overcome some strength disadvantages with his combative nature. His explosive leaping ability also gives him an advantage on contested throws.

Stokes has nice natural vision and feel when in off-ball coverage or zones. He plays composed with his back to the ball, but also has the ability to diagnose what he sees. Stokes shows solid fundamentals as a tackler and will not shy away from contact against physical wideouts.

Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Eric Stokes (27) and LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) fight for a pass during the first quarter in the 2019 SEC Championship. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY 

Georgia Bulldogs defensive back Eric Stokes (27) and LSU receiver Ja'Marr Chase (1) fight for a pass during the first quarter in the 2019 SEC Championship. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY 

Eric Stokes doesn't have the collegiate experience of some of his of his other classmates at cornerback. His combination of blazing speed, natural man coverage skills, and ability to play either inside or outside should make him an immediate contributor with the upside of a number 1 corner.