Saturday, June 1, 2013

Xavier Rhodes: Drunk Giraffe?

There is nothing to say that a player with poor combine results, or mediocre college production, can't succeed.  Still, I do think that when a player player diverges by a large degree from the historic norms for successful players at his position, it is probably not a good indicator that things will turn out well.  With that in mind, I thought I would point to a couple of highly drafted prospects that raise some concerns for me.

I've already kind of touched on Menelik Watson, so my first dubious prospect will be cornerback Xavier Rhodes.  Rhodes was taken with the 25th overall pick by the Vikings.  He does have some very positive traits, but he also has some glaring issues.  In the positive category are his size, speed and explosiveness.  On the flip side, he has terrible measurables in the agility drills (short shuttle and 3-cone).  Here is how he compares to some of the better known NFL cornerbacks.

Player                                                Ht/Spd Score        Agility Score
Xavier Rhodes 1.312 -2.601
Champ Bailey 1.272 2.321
Patrick Peterson 1.322 1.160
Darrelle Revis 0.656 1.176
Carlos Rogers 0.636 2.269
Charles Tillman 0.636 0.599
Nnamdi Asomugha 1.258                  N/A
Antoine Winfield -0.485 0.920
Antonio Cromartie 1.082 0.674
Lardarius Webb 0.261 0.581
Brandon Flowers -0.870 0.775
Richard Sherman 0.882 -0.333
Asante Samuel -0.241 -0.007
Joe Haden -0.319 0.223
Terrence Newman 0.338 1.231
Leon Hall 0.535 1.361
Devin McCourty 0.436 0.859
Johnathan Joseph 0.899 -0.428
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 1.818 0.416

The Ht/Spd score is just a measure of a player's speed relative to their height.  Duh.  As always, it is given in the form of how many standard deviations away from the average result for a given position, that this particular player is.  Basically, the smaller you are the faster you better be.  The agility score works the same way.  Ideally, of course, a player would do well at both.

This is just intended to take a very basic look at what I feel are the primary traits for a cornerback.  You can easily incorporate additional factors, to improve the overall picture.  I could incorporate the Kangaroo Score, where Rhodes would undoubtedly do quite well compared to his peers, since he had a 40.5" vertical jump and am 11' broad jump.  Unfortunately, that tends to be a trait that I treat as only the icing on the cake, if everything else checks out the way it should.

While Rhodes' speed, relative to his height, is quite good, his agility score is absolutely wretched.  I really can't find anybody to directly compare him to, let alone someone who became a success.  Joe Haden attended the combine while recovering from a knee injury, and still performed better than Rhodes.  Even compared to safeties, where the standard agility score is lower, he fares poorly.  As it stands, Xavier Rhodes is probably about as nimble as drunken, gut shot, giraffe.  The closest comparisons I can find for him are these two players:

Player                                             Ht/Spd Score      Agility Score
Mike Jenkins                                           0.251            -1.552
Brandon Browner                                     0.657            -0.977

Even here, Rhode's agility score is still a full standard deviation worse than some of the least nimble corners.  Even attempting to compare him to Mike Jenkins is frustrating, since I've never gotten the impression that Jenkins is very good, despite his one Pro Bowl.  His agility score is so bad, that I almost want to dismiss it as a fluke.  It just seems impossible for a cornerback to have produced these sorts of times at the combine.  Perhaps if Rhodes is able to constantly jam the receiver at the line, he might do okay (probably not).  If not, he could be in trouble, despite his excellent speed.  Playing behind pass rushers like Jared Allen and Brian Robison could mask this weakness to some degree, but I would bet that it will become apparent eventually.  One way to see things in a more positive light, is to look at the cornerback that the Vikings took last year, with the 66th pick.

Player                                             Ht/Spd Score     Agility Score
Josh Robinson                                         0.500            1.578

Robinson is almost the perfect model of what teams look for athletically.  His main problem is that he is 5' 9.5".  He's obviously not built to match up against someone like Calvin Johnson, but nobody else really is either.  Despite that, I wouldn't be surprised in the least if he ends up having a better career than Xavier Rhodes.  People with Robinson's rare athleticism almost never fail, though, like all cornerbacks, he will still probably have up and down periods.  We'll see what happens.

The real question for me is not whether Rhodes can succeed.  It is whether you should spend a first round draft pick on a guy who measured so terribly, in an area that probably matters quite a lot for his position.  I would think that being conservative in the first round, just to be as certain as you can be of getting an at least adequate player, would be the way to go.  Taking a corner who possibly had the worst historical short shuttle and 3-cone times (by a wide margin), seems like an unnecessarily risky proposition. 

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