Fast Track to Nowhere
Al Davis and the Raiders (to no one's surprise) drafted 3 of the fastest CBs in the modern era of the Combine, Fabian Washington, Stanford Routt and DeMarcus Van Dyke. If there had been a Combine this year, Eric Stokes from Georgia might have run faster than all 3 of those players.
In 2005, the Raiders picked Washington one slot before Aaron Rodgers. The Packers also loved Washington and likely would have picked him instead of ARod. Washington ran 4.29 sec in the 40, had a 41.5'' vertical jump and a 3.91 sec shuttle time. After the Raiders were unable to work out a trade for GB's slot, they leapfrogged ahead of the Packers by trading with the Seahawks.
Early in the 2nd round (38 overall) of that same 2005 draft, the Raiders picked Routt, who ran 4.27 sec in the 40. Washington began his career as a starter, but by his 3rd season he lost the starting CB job to Routt. Washington was traded after 3 years with the Raiders, while Routt lasted 7 years there.
In the 3rd round of the 2011 draft, the Raiders picked Van Dyke, who had 4.28 sec speed. He lasted one season with the Raiders.
Getting Washington instead of ARod was a franchise changing decision for the Raiders. Since 2002, the Raiders have only had one winning season and haven't won a single playoff game. Al Davis thought that ARod was too short, so maybe he still wouldn't have taken him in any event. The Raiders drafted 6'6'' tall Andrew Walter in the 3rd round instead. A couple years later, a proposed trade swapping Randy Moss for ARod never materialized and the Raiders drafted JaMarcus Russell. Davis's obsession with tall QBs and fast CBs and WRs didn't work out very well for the Raiders over the final years of his leadership.
If Al Davis were still alive, odds would be good that Eric Stokes would be a Raiders draft pick. Maybe he'd even be a shocking early pick, like Darrius Heyward-Bey. Mike Mayock is now in charge for the Raiders, so there is a much better chance that Stokes will still be available in the 2nd round for the Rams. Should he be a prime target for the Rams?
From 2011 through 2017, there were 20 CBs selected from slots 57 through 79 in the draft. Only 40% of those players (8 out of 20) lasted at least 4 seasons with their teams. A higher percentage, 45%, were busts (defined as no longer being on the roster by their 3rd season.) One player was even waived at the start of his rookie season for performance reasons. Multiple other players only spent 1 year with their teams before they were waived. One of the best CBs out of this group was Trumaine Johnson, a good draft outcome for the Rams.
This is just a variation of what I called "the 3rd round, 33% rule". After looking at early 3rd round picks from a number of drafts, the results showed that during their rookie contracts, approximately 33% of the players were starters, 33% were backups and 33% were busts. This 7 year sample of CBs from a similar area of the draft produced a higher bust rate, which probably isn't surprising, since CB tends to be a higher bust rate position.
If the Rams draft a 2nd round CB at 57, the numbers say there is a better than 50/50 chance that he won't even finish his entire 4 year rookie contract on the team's roster. He could be another Trumaine Johnson, but he also could be a Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Cyrus Jones or Quinten Rollins (a CB prospect I thought was going to be good).
6 foot 5/8 inches tall, 194 pounds, 32 3/4'' arms, 78'' wingspan, 9 1/4'' hands.
40 time at Pro Day varied per different sources to be 4.25, 4.28 or 4.29 seconds. 38.5'' vertical jump, 10'8'' broad jump. 1.50 sec 10 yard split.
Redshirt Junior. 22 years old. Psychology major.
Track star in high school. 3 star recruit.
Made 13 starts in 2019 as redshirt sophomore. 9 starts in 2020.
2020: 20 tackles, 4 INTs, 9 PDs.
2019: 38 tackles, zero INTs, 9 PDs, FF, Sack.
Had a minor knee injury and a possible concussion in 2019.
Kirby Smart complimented Stokes for his volunteer work in the community and called him a high character individual off the field.
Lance Zierlein 6.25 draft grade. Compared to Coty Sensabaugh.
ESPN 75th overall (3rd round)
CBSSports 74th overall (3rd round)
PFF 74th overall (3rd round)
Tony Pauline (PFN) 47th overall (2nd round)
Sports Illustrated 4th best outside CB (2nd round)
Drafttek 83rd overall (3rd round)
LZ says Stokes has below average play strength, tends to play the WR instead of the ball, is a weak run defender, got lucky on his INTs and has poor footwork. He likes that Stokes can play both outside and in the slot, flashed playmaking ability, can press and doesn't back down from physicality at the top of the route.
TDN says Stokes gets grabby, has poor eye discipline, lacks stop and start ability, and doesn't have dynamic closing ability at the top of the route. They like his ability to mirror from press and think that he could be a good zone coverage CB.
Plays both on the left and the right, both to the field and to the boundary, mostly outside, but also in the slot. Can play off or pressing at the LOS. Ability in play both zone and man coverage.
Comfortable as press CB. Says that he prefers to play press man coverage. Enough size to potentially develop into quality outside man to man CB. When he can get his feet right, covers slants well and has enough length to challenge the throw.
Long speed limits separation downfield and helps him recover. The WR fakes a corner route, then cuts up and goes deep. Stokes in trail technique is put a yard behind, but his speed prevents the gap from getting any bigger.
Made some nice end zone plays to prevent TDs against DeVonta Smith on fade route and then as a slot CB going to the back of the end zone.
Rare speed and athleticism. Raw player with upside potential if he can improve his technique.
Doesn't have great instincts or natural feel for how to play CB.
Below Average Ball Skills
"I know for a fact that I've got to improve my ball skills." Stokes at his PD, talking about his weaknesses.
In the position drills at his Pro Day, Stokes dropped multiple balls. Hands not soft, dropped potential INT.
The 4 INT stat from 2020 is misleading. He got a pick six when his WR ran into another CB. He got another pick six when his WR appeared to run the wrong route on the play, dragging him directly into the passing window for a different WR. He got a 3rd INT when the QB under pressure served up a wounded duck off his back foot. His 4th INT was off a tipped ball intended for a WR he wasn't covering. Every INT he had in college was a "strange circumstance" type pick. He's not a CB who is consistently putting himself in dangerous positions by jumping routes or undercutting routes or beating his own WR to the pass.
Inconsistent in Press
Not calm or patient in press coverage. Frequently beaten across his face on both inside and outside releases. The WR fakes one way, then goes the other way and Stokes struggles to moves his feet to mirror, then reaches out with his hand to try to grab them.
Trying to mirror the WR's release, he took a wasted, false step. Gets caught leaning the wrong way. Bites on outside fake and tries to grab the WR going to the inside. Short 3rd down, WR crosses his face to the inside and CB has to try to grab him with his hand. Took step to the outside with his inside foot, then WR crosses his face to the inside, CB tries to grab him, but gives up immediate separation.
Ends up 1 yard behind the WR right off the LOS, because he tries to grab them with his hands, not able to get his hips and feet around to turn and run in sync with the WR.
Fake WR jet sweep to his side. He's reading the QB and is standing in front of the RB near the LOS. CB decides to turn and run backwards as the QB throws it out to the flat, behind the LOS, to the jet sweep WR. Instead of being able to drive on that route, the CB ran 5 yards in the wrong direction. On top of that, he is now in perfect position for the RB to block him. A different defender from a deeper position has to come up in support to tackle the WR.
Not aware to rubs and pick plays. Short 3rd down, doesn't anticipate pick play and gets knocked off from the WR, giving up the first down. WR uses rub to get open on corner route and doesn't have the instincts to be able to avoid running into the pick. 3rd down as the slot CB, he gets rubbed off and surrenders a first down completion.
Late driving on underneath route in zone coverage. Slow to read WR screen.
Average near the top of the route
Gives up separation at the top of the route. 4th down play, short slant, he gives up separation and can't stay close to the WR at the top of the route.
Crucial 3rd down in 4th quarter. He's pressing WR at line, then is running shoulder to shoulder with the WR down the sideline. The WR turns and looks for the ball for several steps, but Stokes never turns back towards the QB or the ball and on the backshoulder throw can't adjust to contest the catch point.
WR going up the seam hits the brakes. Stokes goes flying by and is 3 yards off on the curl route. Ten yard comeback route, gives up 4 yards of separation, making the throw simple for QB.
As free defender in center field, jump ball in air from QB, but Stokes completely mistimes his jump and can't make a play on the ball.
Blatantly tugged on jersey of WR going down the sideline on deep fade. Appeared to use his hand to turn the shoulder of the WR before ball arrives, but penalty not called.
Gets jostled at the top of the route by the WR and pushed backwards, falling down and rolling over.
Not Good against Run
Weak tackler, no stopping power. Not aggressive or physical as a run defender.
Put on skates by TE block, driven 5 yards backwards on wide run.
Passive, weak setting the edge, sits back and waits for combo block to get to him.
Near the GL, before the whistle is blown and the play is still live, he doesn't fight to shed his block, he just stands and watches as the other defenders battle to prevent the TD.
I didn't find his interviews to be overly impressive. Might need a big brother type to set an example for how to work and prepare at the highest level as a pro.
Pro Comparison and Grade
Phillip Gaines (3rd round 2014 Chiefs, Rice.) 4th round grade.
The first red flag that there is something off with Eric Stokes is that I'm even doing a profile on him. A CB who is a good player and runs sub 4.3 seconds in the 40 should be a high to middle 1st round pick. In 2015, I liked Trae Waynes, who was the 11th overall pick. Waynes ran 4.31 seconds at the Combine. If Stokes was projected to go that early in this year's draft, we wouldn't even be looking at him. Why would a CB who runs so fast be listed on most draft boards as a 3rd round prospect?
Gaines ran 4.38 sec in the 40 at the Combine. He weighed 193 pounds, but put on 10 pounds in his 2nd season. Tore his ACL in 2015, had another knee injury in 2016, dislocated his elbow in 2017, ankle injury in 2019. I liked Gaines as a prospect. He was up and down early on for KC, but at one point it looked like he might become a starter for them. For the most part, things haven't worked out for him.
Coty Sensabaugh only started one season at Clemson. He was a 4th round pick in 2012. The Rams signed Sensabaugh in 2016, but he didn't even last a full season with the team, getting cut in the middle of 2016. Sensabaugh had a limited degree of success after he flopped with the Rams. When the Steelers benched former 1st round CB draft pick, Artie Burns, Sensabaugh was the CB who replaced him and he did a decent job.
I could see Stokes sticking around in the NFL and having a career similar to Sensabaugh, because he can play both outside and in the slot and he's an NFL level athlete. The Rams drafted David Long in the middle of the 3rd round in 2019. I think Long has better college tape and is the superior prospect compared to Stokes.
The Rams shouldn't start adopting the Al Davis draft philosophy. Don't draft a CB early, just because he has a fast 40 time.