The 2013 NFL Draft was a memorable one for Vikings fans. Slotted to have two first-round selections, many fans were anticipating the first night. It was the first time the franchise was scheduled to have two first-rounders since the debacle that was the 2005 draft.
Selecting receiver Troy Williamson and defensive end Erasmus James, it was one of the worst draft classes in franchise history. With another chance to redeem themselves, the future looked bright. Possessing picks No. 23 and 25 to begin the night, general manager Rick Spielman was guaranteed to get two high end talents in the latter half of the first-round.
Sharrif Floyd headlined the class due to a historical draft slide. Seen as a top-five talent pre-draft, Floyd fell to the Vikings at No. 23. The pick that drew the most controversy was their final selection of the night, receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. Trading four picks with the New England Patriots in order to move back into the first-round, Spielman made a gamble on a prospect that was labeled as an ultimate “boom or bust” type of pick due to his raw ability as a receiver.
Fast forward to 2017, Floyd’s career is in question due to an unsuccessful knee operation and Patterson has now moved on to the Oakland Raiders. The clear highlight of that night remains the pick they made in between the two. With the 25th overall selection, the Vikings selected cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
The team had a clear hole at the position. Chris Cook was on his last leg, as he hadn’t shown any improvement since being selected in the second round of the 2010 draft, and Josh Robinson was going back and forth between being an outside and nickel cornerback, which ultimately ruined his overall development.
Rhodes was expected to come in and be an immediate contributor to a secondary that had been starving for a standout performer since the days of Antoine Winfield.
Earning the nickname “Rhodes Closed”, he has now become that foundation piece of the teams defense that they were hoping for when drafting him. Initially though, it got off to a rocky start. Lets take a look at the development of what has become one of the best cornerbacks in the league.
The biggest knock on Rhodes entering the league was his grabby mentality. Meaning that when he is back pedaling and the receiver he’s guarding eats up the cushion that he’s giving them, once the receiver re-directs or changes directions, it was his natural instinct to grab the receiver.
In the example above, Rhodes is playing off man-to-man coverage. He is much more comfortable when he can get his hands on the receiver at the line of scrimmage. The reasoning behind why he feels more comfort is that Rhodes feels as if he can control where the receiver is going if he can initially get his hands on him as soon as the ball is snapped, opposed to reacting to him.