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Tale of the Tape: Rhodes vs. Trufant

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Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

It's been widely considered that Alabama's Dee Milliner is the top cornerback prospect in the 2013 NFL Draft. But who's next off the board? Most likely, teams in the market for a corner will choose between Florida State's Xavier Rhodes and Washington's Desmond Trufant. Let's look at the two best CB prospects behind Milliner, based on the five most important characteristics scouts look for in the position:

    •    Physical Attributes : Size, speed, strength, balance, foot quickness
    •    Zone Coverage: Ability to key and diagnose in zone coverage
    •    Man to Man: Ability to play off and press man
    •    Tackling:  Effort and Ability
    •    Closing/Ball Skills: Burst on breaks, adjustments to balls in flight, catching in a crowd.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES

Rhodes: At, 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, Rhodes possesses great size for a CB. He has great length in his arms (33 ¾ inches) and good hand size (9 inches). Ran a very strong 4.43 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. He had a vertical jump of 40.5 inches and a broad jump of 132.0 inches. Displayed decent strength with a bench press of 14 reps. He chose not to participate in the agility drills at the Combine. He is a big corner who exhibits good strength and speed on the field. Does have difficulty changing direction smoothly.

Trufant: At 6-foot, 190, Trufant has good NFL size, with average arm length (31¼ inches) and small hands (8 5/8 inches). Ran a fast 4.38 in the 40 at the Combine. Has good lower body explosion as well with a vertical jump of 37.5 inches and broad jump of 125 inches. Bench press was a solid 16 reps. He showed ultra quick change of direction in the 20 yard shuttle (3.85 seconds). Trufant shows very good acceleration, fluid hips and breaks out of his backpedal with tremendous burst.

Advantage: Trufant. Rhodes has the prototypical combination of size, power and speed, but Trufant has size, speed, power, along with tremendous quickness. His fluidity in his hips helps him change direction on a dime, a skill paramount for cover corners in the NFL.

ZONE COVERAGE

Rhodes: Solid if not spectacular, has range and closing ability. Quick enough to limit gains on routes in front of him, but doesn’t show the anticipation skills needed to be elite. He will chase receivers beyond his zone, getting out-leveraged by certain route concepts. Got caught chasing in the Clemson game and misread his 1/3 responsibility against Georgia Tech, costing the Seminoles a TD.  His inability to transition quickly limits his playmaking ability in zone coverage.

Trufant: Trufant has very good zone instincts, understands route concepts and breaks on the ball with a burst. Leverages his man and knows where and when his help is coming from. Does a very good job of keying the 3 step and seeing the QB. He is good at maintaining discipline in coverage. Did a tremendous job in the bowl game against. Boise State in his zone responsibilities.

Advantage: Trufant. He has shown the instincts necessary in zone coverage. Can anticipate routes and has the ability to keep the QB in his peripheral vision. Rhodes can take advantage of his press skills in a Tampa scheme, but still need to develop discipline his eyes in zone coverage.

MAN TO MAN

Rhodes:  Played primarily boundary corner in press man, utilizing his strength and size well. Has quick hands and along with his arm length does a good job of redirecting WRs. He is a physical corner capable of matching up with bigger receivers and covering tight ends. Shows the ability reroute and run vertically. Shut down Northern Illinois’ top receiver in the Orange Bowl playing press coverage. Has the ability to mirror and shadow but has difficulty transitioning at times. WRs can gain separation on breaks. Relies on being physical and has a tendency to grab and use his hands, which may lead pass interference or contact calls in the NFL. This became an issue with a costly PI and 4th-down catch allowed on the game-winning drive for NC State.

Trufant: Trufant looks comfortable in both off man coverage and press man coverage.
His foot quickness gives him the versatility to play the slot or outside man. Does a great job of mirroring the receiver both laterally and vertically and forcing him to the sideline. Showed tremendous ability in his man skills in his Senior Bowl 1-on-1 matchups. Displayed this playing both outside and inside man vs. Stanford.

Advantage: Trufant. Rhodes is good in press, but Trufant can play it all: press man, off man; he even showed some sit man in a 2 shell disguise. His foot quickness allows him to recover better off WR break or stem, and his ability to transition quickly has him in position to make a play on the ball.

TACKLING

Rhodes: Will mix it up vs. the run, and can be a physical tackler. Will be aggressive downhill. His tackling technique needs to be refined. Takes good pursuit angles in the open field, but will lunge at ball carriers.

Trufant : He will not be the most physical tackler on the field. He does takes good angles in pursuit. His burst off the break along with his body control in the open field makes him a reliable open field tackler. Tends to go low and “gator” tackle ball carriers.

Advantage: Even. Trufant has open field ability, Rhodes is more physical near the L.O.S.

CLOSING/BALL SKILLS

Rhodes: Appears lackadaisical in his pedal and became too high at times, affecting his transition. Looks stiff transitioning in and out of breaks. Has good timed speed but lacks a second gear when tracking the ball on vertical throws. Can get turned locating the ball in in zone coverage. When he is in position, he has good timing on his leaps and makes plays in one-on-one situations. Has trouble anticipating breaks in zone coverage allowing for catch and runs.

Trufant: Quick feet in pedal and the ability to quickly flip hips to turn and run with receivers. His instincts and athleticism allow him to be in position to make plays on the ball. Shows an innate ability to determine whether to play the ball or the man. Does a nice job baiting quarterbacks into thinking receivers are open. Did a great job with this vs. Washington State. Can make up ground when ball is in air. Tracks and times his jumps well but he's inconsistent in coming up with INTs.

Advantage: Trufant. With the exception of not being as consistent with his hands, Trufant has superior coverage skills whether it is zone or man. His ultra quick feet and instincts keep him in position to make plays on most ball thrown his way.

OVERALL EDGE

Desmond Trufant. He is the more complete corner between the two. Has instincts and coverage skills to play inside or outside. He will need to develop some strength to compete against the bigger outside receivers he will see in the NFL but his footwork gives him the ability to play off, press or sit positions. Rhodes has a solid skill set, but seems to be best suited in press man scheme. His press skills could be used in a Tampa scheme, but he would need to develop better eye discipline to have success in such a defense. Rhodes could transition into playing safety at the NFL level with his size, but again, eye discipline as a zone safety is needed.