NFL Draft 2013: Why Xavier Rhodes Should Be Oakland Raiders' No. 1 Pick
It's only mid-July and the only football going on is offseason workouts.
So is it a bit too early to start talking about the 2013 NFL Draft?
Normally, it would be. But there's one specific college player about whom I could no longer resist discussing. He's a player I thought could have came out for this year's draft, but I'm glad he chose not to. Had he declared early, it's highly unlikely that the Raiders, whose first draft pick was 95th overall, would have landed him.
His name is Xavier Rhodes.
The Florida State Seminole is the perfect pick for the Oakland Raiders come 2013. He is a talented player at a position for which the Raiders need a superstar. Signing veterans Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer to one-year deals are band-aids over a bigger problem.
Drafting Rhodes would be surgery.
First, let's look at Rhodes' size. He has really good size for a cornerback. Standing at 6'2", Rhodes is able to match up with most receivers in the NFL. Most wideouts are under 6'3", so he will not have to worry whether he is tall enough to defend a jump ball.
At 215 pounds, Rhodes is heavier than other cornerback prospects. He uses his size and strength to his advantage; Rhodes is very physical in coverage and—though he doesn't have elite speed—he has enough quickness to stay with many receivers.
Now, the "old regime" in Oakland would be drooling all over Rhodes based on his measurables. The "new regime" should be drooling on what Rhodes can do on the field.
Rhodes is hard to shake in press coverage, but he's no slouch in zone, either. Playing with Florida State, Rhodes has a lot of experience playing in both man and zone coverage. However, after watching film, I will say that Rhodes' strength is man coverage.
In the run game, Rhodes is a reliable tackler—it's a shock to see him miss a tackle—and he can dish out big hits from time to time.
In terms of productivity, Rhodes stats might disappoint you. He did have four interceptions, 12 deflections and 58 tackles during a breakout freshman season in 2010 and was named ACC Defensive Rookie for the Year.
But his numbers dipped as a redshirt sophomore: He was only able to get one interception and deflect four passes.
However, I recommend watching his game tape before judging whether his play declined or not. I watched his game against Oklahoma, and Landry Jones only threw two passes Rhodes' way.
The first pass resulted in a long completion to Kenny Stills. There are two things you can blame: Rhodes' lack of elite speed and his tendency to bite on a double move. The second pass toward Rhodes—also a long throw—was intercepted by a safety helping over the top.
Even while only watching just the one game, I can tell that Rhodes was treated almost the same way Nnamdi Asomugha was during his time in Oakland. Teams just do not like to throw his way.
Of course, there is always room for improvement.
Both of Rhodes' flaws were exposed when he gave up the long catch to Stills. He does not have the speed to hang with the elite receivers. Usually, Rhodes will jam a receiver to slow him down, but on this play, he did not.
Rhodes was still able to stay with Stills until he bit on a double move and failed to recover in time. This was not the first time I saw Rhodes' aggressiveness cause him to bite on a double move.
All in all, Rhodes is a great cornerback prospect. He has a terrific set of skills that could translate into a shutdown corner at the next level. Right now, Rhodes is looked at a first-round pick, and with a strong junior year, he could move up.
Let's just hope he doesn't move so high as to be out of the reach of our Oakland Raiders!
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