The Minnesota Vikings have a number of talented individual players on their roster, and for most of those players, where they rank in the hierarchy of players at their position is up for debate.
In the case of cornerback Xavier Rhodes, it is not. Or, at least, it shouldn’t be. Most of the gurus across the National Football League don’t seem to have received the memo yet, but Xavier Rhodes is no longer one of the best cornerbacks in the National Football League. . .he’s simply the best corner the league has to offer.
Rhodes, according to Pro Football Focus, was the NFL’s best corner in terms of run support in 2016, but that’s not why the Vikings gave him the big money this offseason. They backed up the Brinks truck because of what Rhodes can do in coverage, and he also does that better than any other corner in the National Football League. In 2016, he had the lowest passer rating allowed in the NFL, with quarterbacks having a rating of just 47.0 when throwing in Rhodes’ direction. He also had the second-lowest completion percentage allowed, as he allowed only 36 of 75 pass attempts that came his way last season to be completed.
After two games this season, Rhodes has picked up right where he left off. In the Vikings’ first two games this season, he has been matched up against two of the NFL’s premier wide receivers: Michael Thomas of the New Orleans Saints and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Rhodes didn’t match up with Thomas the entire game against New Orleans, but when they did go head-to-head, Thomas had just two catches for 22 yards. Against the Steelers, Rhodes basically followed Brown all over the field, and allowed four catches for 54 yards to Brown when they went head-to-head.
In summary, Rhodes has held two receivers that combined for 198 catches and 2,421 yards in 2016 to an average of three catches for 38 yards in the first two games of this season. I’m relatively certain that you don’t need advanced stats or analytics or what have you to realize that’s pretty darn good.
I said this when Rhodes signed his big contract this offseason, and I’ll say it again. There isn’t a cornerback in the National Football League that I would trade Xavier Rhodes straight-up for. Not Richard Sherman, not Josh Norman, not Desmond Trufant, not any of them. Xavier Rhodes is, bar none, the best corner in the National Football League, and experts across the NFL universe could right a pretty significant wrong by finally giving him the recognition that some of those other corners receive.