With the NFL Draft over, dynasty owners are combing for lesser known playmakers, especially on the defensive line. Look no further than former Louisville Cardinal, now New Orleans Saint defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins. One of the reasons to further explore Rankins is that he plays the free defensive tackle spot that lines head up on the guard in a 4-3 defense similar to that of the Rams Aaron Donald. I reviewed his 2015 games against Florida State, Auburn, and Texas A&M to get a better feel for the talents and skills he will bring to the French Quarter. This is what I saw:
DT – Sheldon Rankins, 6’ 1” 299 lbs., formerly Louisville now New Orleans
The first concern is his size as he is shorter than most defensive tackles and he hasn’t cracked the 300 lbs. Mark (close though). If Rankins is forced to add more weight, will it take away some of his explosiveness? In college, the defender relied upon his brute strength, so he must increase the efficiency and techniques of his pass rushing moves, aka swim, spins, rip and go in order to become a better player. At the snap of the ball, the defensive tackle can get too high, while letting blockers into his body and can use too much lean causing him to lose his balance. I feel these are correctable tendencies, but Rankin’s other hesitation is that the lesser competition he faced playing for Louisville will be a a few talent notches below anyone he goes against in the NFL. However, that is a growing pain that every college player must battle.
Rankins has a fantastic first step, and does not give up ground in any pass or run play I watched. Despite his shortness, he has good vision and anticipates where the ball is going with great instincts. The athletic defender has a high motor that allows him to work up and down the line of scrimmage using his lateral quickness, never giving up on the play. The Saints rookie is versatile enough to play defensive end in a pinch with good flexibility and loose hips. He is powerful enough to take on two blockers, disengages well with a forceful punch, while keeping his arms outstretched to keep linemen off his body. Because Rankins is a better inside rusher working against the center and the guards, his position with New Orleans is ideal.
Rankins has the quickness and power to play one of the most difficult defensive positions on a weak defensive team (ranked dead last in 2015). He should be the first rookie defensive tackle selected (in defensive tackle required leagues) or the fourth defensive lineman after DeForest Buckner, Joey Bosa, and Noah Spence in rookie drafts.
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