The Las Vegas Raiders have used free agency up to this point to add starters and they will likely use the draft for depth pieces. Georgia’s Eric Stokes could provide solid depth to a fairly weak secondary.
As it currently sits, the Raiders secondary has an abundance of unproven talent. While Trayvon Mullen has started to come into his own, Damon Arnette and others still have a lot to prove. The Ohio State product is more than likely the day one starter. However, spots behind him and Mullen should be up for grabs.
With the release of Lamarcus Joyner, there is going to be a battle for the slot corner position. The Raiders recently announced that Nevin Lawson was re-signed to a one-year deal. He will be the presumed front-runner for that position. His competition currently consists of Keisean Nixon and Amik Robertson, so depth not might be an issue in that department. The outside corner spots, however, are in desperate need of help. With the only viable backup option being Isaiah Johnson, the Raiders are very weak on the outside. Stokes would be an instant upgrade to the cornerback room.
What could Eric Stokes bring to the Raiders?
Stokes stands at 6’1″ and weighs 194 pounds. His size alone makes him a more viable option on the outside than Nixon, Lawson, or Robertson. Running an unofficial 4.25 40-yard dash definitely opened some eyes. While unofficial numbers don’t carry the same weight as the official ones, that’s still impressive. Even if he was closer to 4.3 that is still faster than both Mullen and Arnette.
The Raiders obviously play in a division that is home to Tyreek Hill. Speedy corners are all but a necessity if the secondary wants to have a chance. Stokes provides more than just more length and speed though. PFF gave the Georgia product a 73.4 coverage grade overall but his strength comes in man-to-man coverage. Stokes received an astounding grade of 81 in man coverage. That’s better than Patrick Surtain III, Caleb Farley, and Jaycee Horn all considered first-round picks by many.
In fact, one of Stokes’ strengths is his ability to bump and run. He also possesses a strong ability to break up passes, recording 22 in his three years at Georgia. He only recorded four last year. However, that could simply be because opposing quarterbacks targeted him just 28 times. On the other hand, the Bulldogs cornerback may not be a three-down type player.
What are the weaknesses and when could he go?
Throughout his college career, Stokes never showed any prowess in run defense. In fact, Pro Football Focus gave him a paltry 61.1 grade in run defense. He also exhibited an inability to change directions quickly making him susceptible to better route runners. Some questions are raised about ball awareness as well.
In fact, last year was the only one in which he recorded any interceptions. While he did manage to snag four, all of them were “right place, right time” scenarios. Also, despite being stout in man-to-man coverage Stokes fails to have such command in zone coverages. There are also some concerns about his strength and ability to handle stronger receivers or bigger ball carriers.
All this makes for an interesting scenario for him on draft day. Lance Zierlein of NFL Media has Stokes as a potential Day 2 pick. Whereas PFF has him graded out as a fourth-round pick. The Raiders currently have two third-round draft picks and a fourth. Some risk could be taken in the third if the Raiders fall in love with Stokes. After the Lynn Bowden Jr. fiasco in 2020, they might be privy to take proven players.
Erik Stokes is less of a risk than presented
Stokes more than likely isn’t going to find himself in a situation like Bowden. There wouldn’t be a major position change as he’s solidified himself as a cornerback. Also, the 22-year old won’t be asked to start either. His best fit is as a backup or dime package corner making him an ideal third-round pick.
Having a speedier option to fill in from time to time would benefit the defense tremendously. Gus Bradley’s defense is very zone-heavy, so Stokes wouldn’t be exposed all the time either. If he’s still available when the Raiders pick at 79 and 80, they should absolutely take the opportunity to bring him aboard.
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*Top Photo: Courtesy of Dale Zanine