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Next Man Up: CB Holton Hill

If Xavier Rhodes misses significant time, the undrafted rookie will take his place.

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

With Xavier Rhodes suffering what could potentially be a season-ending hamstring injury, although there is still update from Mike Zimmer on Rhodes’ condition, attention turns to Rhodes’ replacement at cornerback, undrafted rookie Holton Hill.

After he was drafted, I did a break-down of Hill here. The upshot was that Hill was probably a 2nd round talent except for his pot problem, and if he could quit the habit, he’d be a steal for the Vikings as an undrafted free-agent. And so it seems to be so far.

You may remember Hill from yesterday’s game against the Packers - he was the one who got beat by Davante Adams on would should have been a TD except Adams dropped a somewhat overthrown ball by Rodgers. You may also remember he had an interception on his first snap against the Jets back in week seven.

Obviously those two plays don’t paint a complete picture of Hill so far this season in limited duty, but fortunately more statistics are available.

Hill has played a total of 145 snaps so far this season for the Vikings - almost three full games. Over half of those snaps came in two games - against the Saints and Lions.

Overall, Hill has held up quite nicely according to Pro Football Focus. More particularly, he has the lowest allowed passer rating of any of the Vikings defensive backs when targeted (60.4). He has played a total of 95 coverage snaps, been targeted 12 times, allowing 6 receptions for 68 yards, including one TD. He also has the one interception. He is the 6th highest graded Viking on defense by PFF, and the highest graded cornerback, albeit on more limited action.

Comparing him to first-round pick Mike Hughes, before he went down with an ACL tear, Hill actually compares favorable to Hughes in most respects. Hughes played a total of 244 snaps before he went down - 100 more than Hill so far - and allowed a passer rating of 112.4 when targeted - approaching twice that allowed by Hill so far. Hughes allowed 21 receptions on 28 targets for 261 yards and 2 TDs, and had an interception as well.

Xavier Rhodes, by comparison, had a 93.1 passer rating allowed when targeted. Trae Waynes 104.3. MacKensie Alexander 95.8. Alexander has improved a lot over the past five games, however, allowing an average passer rating of only 45 over that stretch.

It should be said that Rhodes generally got the toughest coverage assignments for the Vikings - as their #1 cornerback - and that quality of competition has always brought his numbers down.

In any case, there is one more statistic that I view favorably for Holton Hill: On a per coverage snap basis, Hill is the least targeted of all the Vikings cornerbacks, having been targeted about 12.6% of his coverage snaps. You would think as an undrafted rookie, opposing QBs would test the young cornerback early and often - but that has not been the case. That suggests good coverage. Why else would a veteran QBs like Drew Brees avoid him?

Bottom line, Holton Hill may not be the polished cover corner Xavier Rhodes has been, but on the other hand Xavier Rhodes has not been that guy this year either. I would expect more of a learning curve from Hill going forward, and likely more limitations in communications and coverages in the back end than was the case with Rhodes. But Hill’s body of work so far, albeit only about three games worth overall, suggests he may be able to step in without a big dropoff in performance.

It looks like Rhodes’ injury may not be so bad after all, but I would not be surprised if he missed a game or two - similar to Anthony Barr - as a precaution if nothing else. But having picked up Holton Hill as a UDFA for next to nothing and having him play at this level has gone a long way to improve the quality of the Vikings CB depth. They will need that depth to provide quality snaps in the weeks to come. Hopefully Holton Hill will be one of those guys the Vikings can rely upon to fill-in where necessary as a quality backup if/when Rhodes or Waynes goes down.


What Do You Think of Holton Hill’s Performance So Far?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    Should be a starting CB
    (585 votes)
  • 36%
    Quality Depth, but no more
    (933 votes)
  • 39%
    Okay, but still a lot to learn
    (1019 votes)
  • 0%
    Too Many Mistakes
    (9 votes)
  • 1%
    Cut Him
    (29 votes)
2575 votes total Vote Now