The Minnesota Vikings had a much improved defensive secondary in 2012 with a great bounce back performance by Antoine Winfield and a steady performance by Chris Cook. Depth is still a concern as is the long-term future of the unit.
The current starters are Cook and Winfield at cornerback. Winfield will turn 36 this season but is still playing at a very high level. He is best used almost exclusively at the slot corner position if possible but the Vikings haven’t had the talent to make that full-time transition. Cook is entering his first contract season and has the most question marks of the entire group. At times, he flashes ability to be a top tier cover corner but he been on a roller coaster for his entire Vikings career. Each offseason everyone seems to think that this is the season that he finally puts it together. The Vikings could ink him to a lower level contract this offseason to keep him around and hope he delivers on it. Because if he does deliver on it and becomes the player we all hope he can be the Vikings will have to pay significantly more for him next season or consider franchise tagging him. Either way he is a mystery once again this offseason.
In regards to depth, the backups in 2012 were Josh Robinson, A.J. Jefferson and Marcus Sherels. Robinson was a rookie with electric speed but struggled down the stretch and saw little action late in the season. He could have a very nice Sophomore campaign in 2013 but he didn’t prove that he is ready to lock down a starting spot yet. Jefferson was a very solid acquisition by the Vikings late in the preseason and has a very good chance to be resigned, he is a restricted free agent. Jefferson played the outside and slot both while players like Winfield and Cook were dinged up. He gambles a little too much but is still very young and can improve with proper coaching. Sherels is very valuable but not irreplaceable as a returner. Sherels is an exclusive rights free agent who when asked to step in as a slot corner late in the season struggled in the role. His special teams value is high but it might not be enough to keep him around. With Robinson certainly back for his second season, Jefferson would seem most likely to be resigned and Sherels could be released. The Vikings may not resign either player until the “second wave” of free agency after the draft takes place.
That brings me to the 2013 NFL Draft and the cornerback position. The corners in the draft are a very deep group and there is not a sure-fire shutdown type corner in the draft. Bama’s Dee Milliner seems to be the closest thing to it which means he will likely be gone in the top 15 picks. The Vikings don’t necessarily have to spend a day one pick on the position and could look for value later in the draft.
A player the Vikings could be keeping an eye is Florida State’s big corner back Xavier Rhodes. According to Scouts Inc.’s Steve Muench, he believes there are enough concerns with Rhodes to “to drop him into the late Day 2/early Day 3 range.”
Ultimate Xavier Rhodes Highlights | HD
Muench lists three main issues with Rhodes’ game, first writing “like a lot of taller corners, he doesn’t sink his hips and transition out of breaks as well as elite cover corners.
Secondly, Rhodes’ instincts and discipline are just average. He can gamble and he lacks the second gear to consistently recover when he gets caught out of position.
Third, he’s had some problems staying healthy.”
FSU CB Xavier Rhodes Junior Season Highlights Video
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