Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports
With free agency winding down, everyone is getting into NFL Draft mode. And what better way to get into the draft than looking back at how the Vikings picks performed last year?
Next up is the Vikings second of three first round picks: cornerback Xavier Rhodes from FSU.
The Vikings selected Rhodes with the 25th overall pick in the 2013 Draft, with the pick they acquired from Seattle in the Percy Harvin trade. Rhodes was the third cornerback selected in the draft, after Dee Milliner and Desmond Trufant.
Rhodes was known as a big, press corner heading into the draft, who was ideal in man coverage but struggled when playing off coverage in zone.
Rhodes started the season as No. 3 on the cornerback depth chart, behind Chris Cook and Josh Robinson. Rhodes was guaranteed to see plenty of playing time even at that spot, however, as he would still come into the game in nickel packages on the outside.
Rhodes played plenty of snaps but struggled in coverage early in the season, like most of the Vikings corners. There were times when it was clear Rhodes was still adjusting to the NFL, like in week four when he tried to jump a route and instead allowed his man to acquire many yards after the catch. Rhodes also struggled to tone down his physicality early, as flags became an issue for him in coverage.
Later on in the season though, it was clear Rhodes had become acclimated to the NFL. Rhodes finished the season with 10 passes defensed total, but eight of those came in his final three games. Rhodes finished the season as the team’s best corner, even though injuries kept him out of the last two games.
Expectations for 2014
If Rhodes is able to stay healthy throughout the 2014 season, he should rise to the top of the depth chart and become the team’s best corner. Rhodes has the ability to lock down receivers in man coverage, and with his ball skills it’s only a matter of time until he grabs his first interception.
There should be at least some concern about Rhodes’ ability to handle the rigors of an NFL season, however, as he ended up on the turf during the last three games he played in 2013. Hopefully the Vikings training staff can get him better conditioned or prepared for his second season, because a corner like Rhodes is necessary when you’re fighting the big receivers of the NFC North.
There’s still plenty more rookies to go, so keep checking The Viking Age each day as another rookie’s season goes under the microscope!