Xavier Rhodes is close to elite status
If there’s an NFL cornerback primed to cross the divide between good and elite this season, it’s Minnesota’s Xavier Rhodes.
Getting rave reviews during Vikings camp, Rhodes showcased the kind of potential he had last season, his first under Mike Zimmer. With continued improvement heading in 2015 he could start to rival the best in the game when it comes to shutting down the pass.
Rhodes finished the 2014 season as our 14th-graded corner in coverage, but there was a four-game stretch late in the season during which he was topped only by Darrelle Revis, and had some staggeringly good coverage numbers. Over that period he was thrown at 22 times, allowed only seven receptions for 54 yards, while notching seven pass breakups and one interception. Quarterbacks targeting Rhodes over that time had a passer rating of just 22.2.
This was an example of the heights the former first-round pick can hit, but even over the entire season no corner matched the frequency with which he broke up passes (one in every 5.9 targets). That was the best rate of any cornerback over the last eight seasons.
Rhodes has elite potential, and was able to display it not just for a game, but for an extended stretch last year, just his second in the league. Year 3 is traditionally the season cornerbacks make the biggest jump towards their ceiling, so we could be about to see a player force his way into the discussion about the best coverage players in the game.