With the 2012 NFL Draft now in the books, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' player personnel department will soon be turning its attention to the next class of prospects. And they'll have a new hand to help guide their scouting efforts going forward.
On Wednesday, the Buccaneers announced the hiring of Eric Stokes as the team's new director of college scouting. That position was last held by Dennis Hickey from 2005-10 before his promotion to director of player personnel.
The 38-year-old Stokes, who most recently served as the Seattle Seahawks' assistant director of college scouting from 2010-11, takes another step forward in a scouting career that began shortly after his NFL playing career ended. Stokes has spent the last dozen years working for the Seahawks, the team for which he played in 1997 and 1998 after being drafted in the fifth round in '97. Before assuming his most recent position, Stokes spent seven years as an area scout (2000-01, 2005-09) and three as an assistant in the pro personnel department (2002-04).
As the assistant director of college scouting, Stokes helped the Seahawks identify such talent as safeties Earl Thomas (first round, 2010) and Kim Chancellor (fifth round, 2010), linebacker K.J. Wright (fourth round, 2011) and cornerback Richard Sherman (fifth round, 2011). Thomas, Chancellor, Wright and Sherman all started on a resurgent Seattle defense that ranked ninth in the NFL last year.
Stokes evaluated incoming college players during his years as an area scout and assistant director, as he will be doing with the Buccaneers while coordinating the work of the team's area scouts across the nation. During his seasons as a pro personnel scout he produced weekly advance reports of upcoming opponents and assisted in the evaluation of the potential talent in free agency, NFL Europe, the Canadian Football League and the Arena Football League.
Stokes played safety and on special teams during his two seasons with the Seahawks. He was then selected by Cleveland in the 1999 expansion draft but saw his career cut short by injury. Stokes played his college ball at Nebraska, where he won repeated all-conference academic honors and graduated with a degree in sociology.