Yesterday was such a quiet day in Green Bay Packers World leading up to the draft. While Adam Schefter and Ian Rapoport reported one rumor after another about all sorts of player prospects and teams, Packers fans kicked their feet up and enjoyed a relaxing Thursday afternoon as they awaited the start of the circus that is the NFL Draft.
Nothing else happened during the day. Nothing.
When the night was over, the Packers had stayed at 29 and added Eric Stokes, a cornerback from Georgia. Fans should embrace this pick. But when an exhausted Rodger Goodell announced Stokes’ name, one side of the fanbase mercilessly complained about the selection because it wasn’t a wide receiver. The Packers could’ve drafted an NAIA reserve wideout with the pick 29, and there would’ve been some fans screaming, “FINALLY!” like a group of unhinged lunatics.
The belief that they had to take a receiver in the first round this year because they didn’t take one in the first round last year has spiraled out of control. However, good luck getting that point across to the select group of people who have Doritos crumbs all over their shirts as they feverishly pound their keyboard in the comments sections.
If you’re wondering, “Wait, is he talking about me?” I absolutely am, Todd, Gary, Brian, Steve, Ronald, Albert, Stanley, Greg, Mike, John, and Joe. I am.
Stokes has the intriguing combination of size and incredible speed at the cornerback position. He ran a 4.29 40-yard dash at his Georgia pro day back in March, which had scouts drooling. It also caught the attention of general manager Brian Gutekunst.
“The 4.29 (40) always gets your attention,” he said. “Pat Moore, our area scout, does a fantastic job, was very high on him early. Before he tested, before we got to see him as an athlete, we interviewed him. And he’s such a genuine human being. I think Packers fans are going to love him.”
The clips showcasing Stokes’ speed speak for themself.
While his length is great and his speed is top shelf, there are elements of his game that look pretty raw.
His technique needs some fine-tuning, and he tends to tug the jersey at the breaking point or the top of routes. It led to him drawing some penalties at Georgia, but they are issues that aren’t cemented in as “part of the package” and can be worked on at the next level.
Stokes best profiles as a press cover corner who relies on his speed and size to disrupt opposing wide receivers, but his hips could use a little more twitch and fluidity to them. The hips aren’t stiff, per se, they are just hesitant at times. Despite some of the things that need to be worked on, Gutekunst was smitten with him.
“He played a lot at Georgia from an early time there and steadily grew as a player,” he said. “The things that really stuck out about him, his explosiveness is off the charts. He’s a strong, strong athlete, and I think they do a great job down there at Georgia training those guys. As he continued to play in the SEC, I think you saw his confidence continue to grow and grow and grow. That led him to have the year that he had this year.”
If, after all of this, you’re still in the category of, “They messed up by not taking a receiver,” let’s revisit the Packers’ 2020 season.
Aaron Rodgers wins MVP. They have a historically good offense. Green Bay proceeds to go 13-3, earning the No. 1 seed in the NFC. They host the NFC Championship and fall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Were the receivers the problem in the NFC title match? Last I checked, fans were irate with Kevin King and the defensive struggles right out of the gate against Tampa Bay, not the offense.
Drafting Stokes was a selection to solidify the secondary and make the team better. A selection of a wide receiver, based on who was available at No. 29, would’ve been a pick to try and make Rodgers less upset.
At the end of last year, the complaints were largely with the defense after the offense displayed one jaw-dropping performance after another. Drafting a wide receiver in Round 1 last year wouldn’t have changed the outcome against the Bucs. The Packers WR2, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, had four receptions for 116 yards and a touchdown in that game.
So what could’ve flipped the script and catapulted the Packers over the top against Tampa Bay last season? A cornerback with speed and size like Stokes. And now they have him.
The events of yesterday will overshadow the Stokes pick. The pod of people who weren’t going to be satisfied unless they took a receiver will only make it more unbearable. That same group that wanted a wideout are the same people who ripped King to shreds after the final game of the season last year.
Stokes has an opportunity to make an immediate impact. And if Green Bay strikes gold with the pick, imagine the duo of him and Jaire Alexander at cornerback in the years to come. The Packers chose him, intending to fill a glaring roster need in the first round, and got someone they valued at No. 29.
Now it’s time for No. 21 to show out.
And if you still don’t like the selection, can we all hug it out and sing Kumbaya around the campfire while appreciating the fact that Eric Stokes doesn’t like Tom Brady?
Tip of the cap, young fella. Now go ball out for the cheeseheads.