By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Year-in-and-year-out under head coach Kirby Smart, the Bulldogs have featured a secondary loaded with NFL talent, and the 2021 NFL Draft should only turn more Bulldogs into pros. Stokes and fellow cornerback Tyson Campbell should up as selections in the first two rounds, while other defensive backs like Richard LeCounte and D.J. Daniel could be drafted on Day 3. Before long, Stokes should turn into an NFL starter, and he upside to improve as a pro.
In 2019, Stokes helped take over for the loss of DeAndre Baker and had a strong season for the Bulldogs. He totaled 38 tackles, nine passes defended and one forced fumble, but didn’t notch any interceptions. Stokes then showed improved ball skills in 2020, notching four picks despite the shortened season while recording 20 tackles and four passes broken up. The junioe worked out well at his pro day, including running a fast 40 that illustrated his excellent combination of speed, height, length and athleticism.
There is a lot to like about Stokes as a cornerback for the NFL, and he offers a diverse skill set that should make him a versatile defender at the next level. While Stokes is tall and has good length, he is surprisingly fast for a big cornerback. Stokes has impressive straight-line speed with a burst out of breaks and a second gear to close gaps. Being fast along with his length gives him excellent recoverability for the NFL. Another unique aspect about Stokes athletically is a lack of the stiffness that is common among big corners. Stokes is a fluid prospect who can flip his hips and run and doesn’t have tightness that can let receivers gain separation. His skill set translates into Stokes being able to play outside or move inside to the slot.
Like any player going to the NFL, there are some areas of improvement for Stokes. The biggest issue is power, as Stokes needs to add some functional strength to avoid getting pushed around and out-positioned by pro wideouts. While he showed improvement as a press-man corner in 2020, he needs to develop more striking ability for that technique in the the NFL. Stokes also did a better job of turning breakups into interceptions as a junior, but continuing to improve his ball skills would make him a more dynamic pro.
Some team sources have graded Stokes in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Multiple team sources project Stokes to be a candidate to go early in Round 2, and it isn’t impossible for a team picking late in the first round to select Stokes. Early in his pro career, Stokes could become a solid starter for his NFL team.
Player Comparison: Darius Slay. Stokes reminds me of Slay coming out of Mississippi State. Slay is a little shorter and thicker, but both are fast corners who are good athletes with emerging ball skills. Slay was an early second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and Stokes could go early on Day 2 during the 2021 NFL Draft.
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