In a draft class full of exciting defensive prospects, Florida State cornerback Xavier Rhodes doesn't exactly stand out. Mel Kiper lists Rhodes as the fourth-best junior corner prospect, but that isn't stopping the talented junior from declaring for the 2013 NFL draft.
ESPN's Joe Schad had the news:
FSU CB Xavier Rhodes said he will enter the NFL draft.— Joe Schad (@schadjoe) January 2, 2013
Rhodes blends excellent size (6'2" and 215 pounds) with solid speed and ball skills, and has been told that he will likely be a first-rounder, per Tom D'Angelo and the Palm Beach Post. Fox Sports' Peter Schrager, meanwhile, has Rhodes as the 19th pick in his mock draft.
For Florida State this season, he finished with 35 tackles, three interceptions and seven passes defended, and helped spearhead one of the country's stingiest pass defenses (160.8 passing yards allowed per game, third in the nation).
Not surprisingly, Rhodes was named as a First-Team All-ACC selection.
Given his size and strong play against the run, Rhodes could also be a candidate to move to free safety at the next level. ESPN Insider had the following scouting report on his coverage skills:
Shows good range and generally limits production after the catch. Capable of covering deep half if moved to safety. Not as effective matching up in man. Has the upper body strength and length to make it difficult for receivers to get off the line. On the other hand, doesn't show a second gear when tracking the ball downfield and can commit pass interference to prevent from getting beat.
Then again, big, talented corners come at a premium in the NFL, and if Rhodes can transition his game to the NFL as a corner he could have a long and successful career.
He doesn't have the best quickness, but as a bigger, stronger athlete, he could be effective in the bump-and-run, rerouting receivers early and using his solid top-end speed to mirror them down the field.
If Rhodes interviews and tests well, don't be shocked to see him slip into the end of the first round. His size and coverage skills make him a valuable asset, and the possibility he could switch to safety makes him a versatile prospect.