The ghost of Al Davis haunts us.
Like many of us, Al Davis was a sucker for players who looked great getting off the bus. He liked big, strong and fast players, regardless of what their on-field performance told him. If Al were still alive and making the draft picks for the Raiders, I have little doubt he’d take Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
For reasons I believe only Al Davis would understand, many NFL Draft “analysts” have Rhodes ranked as the No. 2 cornerback available in the upcoming draft. I’ve seen him as high as No. 6 overall to the Browns.
Yes, Rhodes is absolutely a physical specimen. At 6’2, 210 lbs, he is built like a No. 1 receiver. But therein lies the problem. Though he’s built to go head-to-head with the big No. 1 receivers in the NFL like Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Julio Jones, the fact is that more often than not he’ll be facing guys like Victor Cruz, Randall Cobb and Pierre Garcon.
The physicality of Rhodes’ play combined with his straight-line speed (4.39 in the 40) will be fine against big, fast wideouts. When facing smaller and more efficient route runners, he’s going to get left behind and possibly frequently penalized.
Rhodes likes to get physical at the line of scrimmage and with the rules becoming ever more restrictive on what players are allowed to do in pass coverage, that does not bode well for him. He also lacks elite change-of-direction ability, something that will show up as a vulnerability when his team faces offenses like Denver and New England, who have complicated and diverse passing trees.
If I’m going to spend a draft pick on a corner in round one, I want a guy who can run step-for-step with every receiver he covers without having to get grabby when that receiver makes a cut. Rhodes, from everything I’ve seen, is not able to do that consistently.
I’d take a guy like Boise State’s Jamar Taylor, who I have as the No. 2 overall corner available, over a guy like Rhodes who is likely to become a safety before his NFL career is over.
If your team is looking for an every-down corner who can keep up with most receivers that line up across from him, you better hope they steer clear of Xavier Rhodes.
BY J.P. SCOTT ON APRIL 16, 2013