Why the Dolphins Should Seriously Consider FSU CB Xavier Rhodes at No. 12

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Why the Dolphins Should Seriously Consider FSU CB Xavier Rhodes at No. 12
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Hometown boy drafted by the hometown team.

Feel-good stories like that are often reserved for Disney movies, but if Bleacher Report's Matt Miller got it right in his latest mock draft, that would be the story for Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Miller projected Rhodes would head to the Miami Dolphins at the No. 12 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

There are some questions as to how well-rounded Rhodes' game is, but he would be a solid pick for the Dolphins based on their needs and scheme.

Here's what Miller had to say about Rhodes and the Dolphins:

The team traded away Vontae Davis and may struggle to re-sign Sean Smith (if they want him back) once he hits the open market. That leaves a starting job open in the defensive backfield.

Florida State product Xavier Rhodes has the ideal size and skill for a corner in today's NFL. He's big at 6'1" and fast (4.43 in the 40). As NFL wide receivers get bigger and faster, the need for cornerbacks with Rhodes' ability becomes greater. 

The Dolphins' needs may shift after free agency, but two weeks prior, their biggest value at pick No. 12 is with Rhodes.

If the Dolphins are able to address their need for a wide receiver in free agency, that would immediately open the door to them drafting a cornerback in the first round. Those are, by far, the team's two biggest needs.

Since virtually everything we read right now indicates the Dolphins will be active in the free-agent market for a wide receiver, we can safely bet they'll be targeting a cornerback with either their first or second-round pick.

Miller covers his bases with the free-agency mention, but let's not fool ourselves: Sean Smith isn't, and shouldn't be, in the plans for the Dolphins.

Not when his stat sheet can be summed up with "third-degree burns."

Not when news of potential tampering with the Chiefs (via The Miami Herald) draws this reaction from Dolphins fans:

Now, why should the Dolphins go after Rhodes at 12? 

At 6'1" and 210 pounds, he is almost a mirror image of what they'd be losing in Sean Smith (6'2", 215 pounds) from a physicality standpoint.

If they need someone to lock up on the outside, Rhodes fits the job description perfectly. He may not be the most versatile player in the draft, but the ability to play press-man coverage is a rarity and would justify using the No. 12 pick.

Rhodes would find a welcoming environment in Miami, since the Dolphins don't mix up coverages a lot with their corners. 

Practically every scouting report on Rhodes speaks glowingly of his abilities in press coverage. He gets his hands on the receiver on virtually every snap, forcing them to reroute, and has the speed to keep up if they get off the jam.

There are some questions about his overall game, however, as some scouts have doubts as to whether he can be versatile enough to play zone coverage, blitz, play in the slot etc. From NFL.com's scouting report:

Can be disinterested when play goes to different receiver he is not responsible for in man coverage, closing speed lacks urgency. Does not have experience inside as a slot corner in nickel. Performance takes a step back in zone coverage, struggles to pass off and close on receivers entering or leaving his area. Looks sluggish or tight hipped when not asked to mirror movements.

If I'm the Dolphins, I'm not as concerned that he can't play in the slot, since that's what cornerback Richard Marshall was signed to do last year. It's the lack of versatility in coverage that would concern me, but even that's minimal given the scheme the Dolphins run and the team's needs.

NEPatriotsDraft.com's scouting report of Rhodes says he's "limited to a press coverage or Cover 2 scheme" and that he's a "much better press man player than zone player."

Not a natural zone corner, but has range and closing ability. Breaks quickly on routes in front of him, but doesn’t anticipate the route combinations/throws quick enough. [...] Will leave his zone and follow receiver over the middle of the field. Can get turned around in zone and struggles to quickly recover due to tightness in the hips. Doesn’t come off his receiver quick enough.

So, what do we get when we add all this up?

Here are some comparisons you should know about with regards to Rhodes:

Most teams would probably love to have any one of those three on their roster, but what do all three of those players have in common? They are physical cornerbacks who are at their best when lined up directly over the receiver. 

Some might think No. 12 is a bit high for a player with Rhodes' limitations, but the consensus in this year's draft is that after the first 10 picks or so, it's anyone's guess.

Rhodes' stock had him at a mid-to-late-first round pick before the combine, and the blistering figures he put up in Indianapolis only helped improve his draft positioning.

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Maybe the Dolphins could trade down and still get him, but if Rhodes is their guy, why take the chance that he could be gone by the time their back on the clock? Rhodes with the 12th pick wouldn't be a horrible reach, and he'd certainly fit what the Dolphins need on defense.

 

Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained first-hand or via team press releases.

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