Xavier Rhodes is one of the top cornerback prospects in this year's draft

Posted Feb 25, 2013

Mike O'Hara takes a look at the Detroit Lions' draft options at the cornerback position

INDIANAPOLIS - When he moves up to the NFL, Xavier Rhodes is sure to come across some men he hasn't met who preceded him in the lineage of cornerbacks at Florida State and went on to make names for themselves.

For flash and sizzle, if he works the rope line in a mission of "need to meet" Seminole alums, he might have Hall of Famer Deion Sanders at the top of his list. Leon Sandcastle could be a close second.

A more important connection in Rhodes' immediate career plans might be Martin Mayhew, a college teammate of Deion's and the general manager of the Detroit Lions. Mayhew was a starting cornerback on the 1991 Washington Redskins team that won the Super Bowl.

It is presumed that the Lions are looking to add a cornerback in this year's draft, and Rhodes is one of the top prospects at that position. Rhodes has size, something the Lions have lacked in their front-line cornerbacks.

When he checked in at the NFL Scouting Combine, Rhodes was measured at a little over 6 feet and 210 pounds. He had a wingspan of 79 inches.

"My strength is my size and my physicality - speed, height," Rhodes said. "People say I'm not a typical corner."

Xavier RhodesRhodes said he isn't just a cover corner. He likes to defend the run.

"I like to come down and set the edge - make the tackles and stuff like that," he said.

One thing he'll have to show the scouts is that he can run fast. Tuesday is timing day for the cornerbacks. How fast they run the 40 will make some impact on their draft position.

The faster the better, but anything under 4.5 seconds is considered acceptable by Mayhew's standards.

"It's hard to say that there's a specific number," Mayhew said. "I think we know what fast is. We like fast. I think if you're bigger, there may be a little bit of wiggle room in terms of the actual time. It depends on how you're going to play a guy, too.

"If you want to play a Cover 2 scheme or play a lot of press-man, and you've got a guy with some length that can disrupt routes at the line of scrimmage, that helps.

"But we like fast - guys that run fast. Guys that can run sub-4.5 I would say are fast."

Rhodes played receiver, running back and defensive back in high school at Miami. He was recruited by Florida State as a cornerback .

His freshman season in 2009 was cut short by a hand injury. He red-shirted that year and returned in 2010 and started all 14 games. He made an impact in the Seminoles' secondary with 12 pass breakups and four interceptions.

Rhodes played well but did not have the same production his last two seasons in Tallahassee. He had one interception in 2011 and three in 12.

The five spot: The Detroit Lions have the fifth pick overall, and it's unlikely that they will draft a cornerback that high.

Dee Milliner of Alabama is regarded as the top cornerback in this year's draft, but not as a top five prospect.

After Milliner in some order come Rhodes, Desmond Trufant of Washington, Johnthan Banks of Mississippi St., Jordan Poyer of Oregon St. and Logan Ryan of Rutgers. In that group, only Ryan is under 6 feet.

Bad timing: The Lions are two years late to draft a cornerback with the fifth pick who can make an immediate impact.

In 2011, the Cardinals used the fifth pick to take Patrick Peterson of LSU, who already is one of the NFL's top cornerbacks. In two seasons he has nine interceptions. He made the Pro Bowl both years and was first team All-Pro as a rookie.

The Lions reportedly talked to the Cardinals about trading up to the fifth spot, but either the Cardinals' asking price was too high or they were set on drafting Peterson.

Lions' depth chart: Chris Houston, who was matched against the opponent's top receiver most of last season, is eligible for free agency on March 12. He is one of the players that Mayhew has made a priority to re-sign.

Also eligible for free agency are Drayton Florence, who won't be back, and Jacob Lacey, who had mixed results and ended the season on injured reserve. Lacey started nine games. Lacey and Pat Lee, a late-season signing, also are eligible for free agency.

2012 draft class: The Lions drafted three cornerbacks last year - Bill Bentley (third round), Chris Greenwood (fifth) and Jonte Green (sixth).

Greenwood spent the entire season on injured reserve with an injury sustained in the offseason workouts. Bentley played in four games, with three starts, before going out for the season with a shoulder injury. Green played 15 games with five starts.

"We have great confidence in those guys as football players over the long term of their careers," Mayhew said. "It's hard to put a timetable on when those guys are going to be able to start for us."

Obviously, the sooner the better.