Xavier Rhodes was drafted in the first round, 25th overall by the Minnesota Vikings and the team is counting on him to step in and contribute right away.
The departure of veteran Antoine Winfield left a void at the ‘nickel’ position and the team wants Rhodes to plug the hole.
Rhodes is the highest cornerback the Vikings have taken since 1994.
The Vikings were 24th in the league against the pass in 2012, but they are hoping Rhodes can help them improve in that area.
The trend of tight ends disguised as wide receivers are forcing defenses to rethink the cornerback position.
Once a quick twitch position that required smaller defensive backs, now with the saturation of 6 foot plus receivers the Vikings have gotten considerably bigger within the past year.
Along with A.J. Jefferson and Chris Cook, the team’s top three cornerbacks are over 6 feet.
According to Ben Goessling of TwinCities.com, Rhodes is a key piece in the Vikings expectations of improving their pass defense and they need him to get on board fast.
‘The Vikings have used Rhodes in nickel packages during organized team activities, though he has seen some time in the base defense. He likely will compete with Robinson for the starting spot opposite Cook. Rhodes played in other schemes in college but spent most of his time locking on to one receiver, using his size to disrupt his opponent's timing; he'll have to do more than that in the NFL. And like many young corners, he'll have to learn to play the position with his feet and not just his hands. In that sense, Rhodes said, the lack of contact in OTAs has helped.’
"This phase right now is helping me out with playing off (receivers), being non-physical," he said. "It's helped me be a more versatile corner. But when you watch film, you're going to see that (jamming receivers) is one of my best assets. I don't have to say that."