+Lots of physical tools
+Nice frame for a 210 player
+Ideal size for a corner
+Flashes potential in press man coverage
-Not too fluid
I think Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes has the most potential of any corner in this draft class, but he also could fail. He definitely needs to become more consistent, but, given his lack of experience at corner, I have some faith in him progressing as a player.
Rhodes has terrific measurables. He has ideal height at 6’2, good bulk at 210lbs, and very good speed with a 4.43 40 yard dash at the combine. He also had an outstanding 40.5 vertical and astounding 33 6/8 in, among the longest I’ve ever seen from a corner, and, in spite of those long arms, he did a respectable 14 bench reps at 225lbs at the combine. Quite impressive.
Rhodes has solid stats. He’s a 3 year starter. In 2010, as a redshirt freshman, he had 58 tackles, and 4 interceptions in 14 games. In 2011, he had 43 tackles and 1 interception in 13 games. In 2012, he 39 tackles and 3 interceptions in 14 games.
Rhodes has average ball skills. He has insanely long arms and he knows how to use them to deflect tons of passes. That being said, he’s not a terrific leaper on film, his awareness of the ball is mediocre, and his instincts in zone coverage are far from elite, so he doesn’t get tons of interceptions. Potential is great here is he can learn to jump more routes, but he already has value as long as he is breaking up passes.
Rhodes is average in man coverage. I don’t know if I could design a guy who, at least in theory, should be better than Xavier Rhodes in press coverage. A coach isn’t scared to leave him on an island since he’s fast enough to stay with almost anyone and when you factor in his long arms and great strength you have tremendous potential. However, Rhodes is incredibly inconsistent in press coverage. If you want to see how good he can be, watch him dominate Michael Floyd in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl. Truly spectacular. He jams Floyd’s release seemingly at will and flashes great route recognition skills. That being said, if you watch some of his other games, you’ll see that he can get knocked off balance when trying to press and, if he is knocked off balance, he pretty much never recovers. He could improve his technique, learn how to use his incredibly long arms, and get better leverage, but, given that he’s only played corner for 3 years (former wide receiver), I feel like there is reason for optimism with regard to his growth. With good coaching, he should improve in press coverage. His instincts in man coverage are actually decent (he can recognize the routes he used to run), but he can be too aggressive at times, especially given the fact he isn’t a very fluid athlete for a corner. But, for what he lacks in fluidity, he has in quickness, surprising quickness for a guy his size. He hasn’t shown me the ability to read the eyes of the receiver when covering the 9 route, which is critical, because the receiver’s eyes are the only thing that tells the corner the ball is in the air when his back is to hit. He should improve in this area under proper coaching, but he really does need to learn how to read the eyes of receivers.
Rhodes is average in zone coverage. He’s very quick for a 6’2 corner, but he only has slightly above average quickness for a normal corner, and he hasn’t really shown the instincts needed to jump routes. He does know how to use his incredibly long arms to deflect passes, and he occasionally flashes the ability to read the quarterbacks eyes, though he is fooled fairly easily at this point. His instincts in zone are probably worse than his instincts in man, which isn’t really a major surprise, because his days as a wide receiver help him out at corner in terms of his familiarity with certain routes but aren’t a major help in terms of his ability to read the eyes of quarterbacks. However, his instincts in zone have improved every season since his freshman season and should continue to do so in the NFL. He has surprisingly good lateral range, which really helps in zone.
Rhodes is average against the run. First off, on the bright side, he pretty much never misses tackles and has tremendous strength. He knows how to use his exceptional size and strength to really dominate as a tackler, not only against the run, but against the pass as well. However, he is merely average as a run stopper because his instincts against the run are quite poor and he has yet learned how to use his long arms to shed blocks, at least not with any consistency. His lack of instincts against the run worry me because, in that respect, he has made very little progress since his freshman season (unlike his instincts in zone and man coverage), but his fundamentals should be cleaned up soon and, if they are, he should be pretty good against the run because with his length and strength he could be as unblockable as any corner in the NFL.
In the end, I like Rhodes. His toughness and physical skills give me optimism with regard to his future NFL success, plus, given his lack of experience, I expect his instincts and fundamentals to improve as his career goes on. He could be a very good player.
NFL Comparison: Not an easy one, but I’d say a less athletic, tougher Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie’s instincts gradually improved in the NFL, and I expect the same of Rhodes.
Grade: 96 (worthy of an mid, maybe early first round pick, in part because this is a weak draft class)
Projection: 92 (will be a late first round pick)