Sep 22, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes (29) against the Cleveland Browns at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Browns defeated the Vikings 31-27. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Top 25 Vikings of 2014: No. 19 CB Xavier Rhodes

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Our countdown of the Top 25 Vikings of 2014 continues with the man at #19…

CB Xavier Rhodes

Fairly or unfairly, Xavier Rhodes will be one of the most-scrutinized of all Vikings this year. The target will be squarely on Rhodes’ chest in more ways than one in 2014.

As a second-year cornerback still trying to learn his position, Rhodes will be targeted by quarterbacks. As a vital piece of the Vikings’ rebuilding effort, he will be targeted by media and fans, especially if he struggles.

Is it fair to expect a lot from Rhodes in his second year, given that for the second time in two years he has to learn an entirely new system? Maybe not. But fairness seldom enters into it when it comes to cornerbacks.

There’s extra pressure on the Vikings’ corners this year after the dismal performance of the entire secondary in 2013. Fans expect improvement under Mike Zimmer and his coaching staff. And Rhodes will be a big part of that process.

There is reason for fans to be optimistic after Rhodes’ performance in 2013. Despite some rough patches, Rhodes performed pretty well overall, showing good coverage skills despite the difficulties inherent in trying to operate in a zone scheme with sub-par players around him.

Rhodes was one of the few bright spots in the Vikings secondary last year and if he can build on his 2013 effort, he should be all right.

There is still uncertainty about Rhodes, however. There have been some negative reports from OTAs and training camp and it’s fair to wonder if Rhodes is a good fit in Zimmer’s scheme with its press-man looks.

Rhodes has enough ability to be a starting corner in the NFL, maybe even a top-notch starting corner, but nothing is yet certain. And that lingering, very real concern is why I can’t rank Rhodes any higher than #19, despite his talent.

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