Summary: Rhodes is a rare player who has huge size yet still possesses the feet, speed and agility to play cornerback. With the success of the Seattle Seahawks’ big cornerbacks, many teams will be interested in finding a corner with that combination of skill set and body type. Rhodes fits that mold and has three years of good college tape to justify a first-round grade.
Rhodes broke into the lineup as a redshirt freshman in 2012 and had an immediate impact. He recorded 58 tackles, four interceptions and 12 passes broken up, and was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Rhodes was a consistent cover corner in 2011. The sophomore had 43 tackles, an interception and four passes broken up. He had an interesting conclusion to the year when he was matched up against Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd and put together a phenomenal tape for NFL evaluators.
While providing blanket coverage against Floyd, one of the best receivers in the nation, Rhodes went down in a multi-player collision in the second half. He sustained a knee strain and was held out of the end of the game. Prior to Rhodes’ injury, Floyd had only three catches for 22 yards.
Rhodes had a good but not great junior year. He started out the season strong and later passed his biggest test of the season against Clemson. Rhodes didn’t play a lights-out game in coverage against the Tigers’ dynamic duo, Sammy Watkins and DeAndre Hopkins, but Rhodes was solid and kept either of them from big plays when he went against them in man coverage.
Florida State mixed in zone and man assignments, so Rhodes did not have to go against either one exclusively in man coverage. Hopkins had 88 yards on five receptions, but 60 came on one touchdown reception against zone coverage where the safety failed to pick him up running down the field. Watkins had 24 yards on six receptions. Rhodes finished with three tackles and a pass breakup against the Tigers.
Rhodes and the Seminoles had an easy schedule after getting by Clemson, and he wasn’t tested by an elite receiver. Rhodes helped his team shut down Duke’s Connor Vernon. Rhodes didn’t play as well against Florida and had a mixed game against Georgia Tech prior to a quality bowl performance against Northern Illinois. He totaled 39 tackles, seven passes broken up and three interceptions in 2012.
The biggest concern with Rhodes was if he had the speed to matchup against NFL receivers. He answered them decisively at the Combine with an excellent 40 time of 4.43 seconds. Rhodes also did well in the field drills. His Combine performance validated his spot in the first round and placed him as the second-rated cornerback in the 2013 NFL Draft.
As a pro, Rhodes will be a very good cornerback to match up against big receivers. He has the height and strength to be physical with them. Rhodes is very adept at taking away fade passes in the red zone. As a tall corner, his great length makes it tough to get the ball by him. He can also run with big receivers in their routes and keep them from gaining separation.
Rhodes has the ability to play press-man coverage. He also is excellent in zone coverage. The aspect Rhodes should work on is off man coverage. While he is a big corner capable of handling receivers with size, he could have some problems with the smaller speed wide outs like Mike Wallace. Rhodes’ NFL team would be better off keeping him matched up against the big receivers.
Rhodes’ combination of size and speed make him look like a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft and a quick starter.
Player Comparison: Charles Tillman. This was a tough comparison. As a prospect, Rhodes is very similar to Bengals corner Dre Kirkpatrick, but the 2012 first-round pick hasn’t played much for Cincinnati. As far as a skill set goes, Rhodes is similar to Tilliman. They are nearly identical in their measurements as Tillman checks in at 6-foot-2, 198-pounds.
Tillman is a strong zone corner who also is effective in man coverage. Big receivers are stymied by the physical defender. Rhodes is all of those things. That being said, he may not ever be as good as Tillman or be the source of splash plays like Tillman has been for the Bears. Still, Rhodes could be an NFL player who is similar to Tillman, just not quite as good.
NFL Matches: Tennessee, San Diego, Miami, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Indianapolis
There are a few teams early in the first round that Rhodes could land with. Tennessee is the first team that could consider him. If DeMarcus Milliner is off the board, Rhodes is a serious candidate to go to the Titans.
San Diego could use cornerback help as well. The Chargers need more help at the position even after signing Derek Cox. The Dolphins could consider a cornerback with the 12th-overall pick. Miami traded away Vontae Davis and could use a new No. 1 corner.
The Bucs have a huge need at corner as they had one of the worst pass defenses in NFL history in 2012. Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano wants to play man coverage so Rhodes makes some sense from a scheme perspective.
Carolina lost Chris Gamble and needed to upgrade its corners before releasing him. If Rhodes slides to the back half of the first round, the Colts could select him to pair with Davis.
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