New Orleans Saints take Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins in Mel Kiper Mock 3.0

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Nov 21, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Nathan Peterman (4) runs with the ball as Louisville Cardinals defensive end Sheldon Rankins (98) defends during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 21, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Nathan Peterman (4) runs with the ball as Louisville Cardinals defensive end Sheldon Rankins (98) defends during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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Feb 28, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisville Cardinals defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins participates in workout drills during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Louisville Cardinals defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins participates in workout drills during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

The latest Mel Kiper ESPN Mock Draft is out, and it has the New Orleans Saints picking a familiar position.

The long-time draft analyst has the black and gold taking Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins in the first round. Here’s what Kiper had to say on the choice:

"Sheldon Rankins, DL, LouisvilleA big man with the quickness to create havoc in the backfield working from the interior, Rankins is a guy you draft to get better on defense, period, and that’s what the Saints need to do.Free-agency effect: Given their cap squeeze, the Saints can’t be too aggressive in free agency and need to add defenders in the draft."

This is the third installment of Kiper’s Mock Drafts since January, which had earlier choices of Alabama’s defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson mocked to the Saints in Mock Draft 1.0 and Rankins in 2.0.

As for Rankins, he isn’t the biggest defensive tackle out there, but offers a combination of strength, agility, and quickness off the snap that compensate for any physical shortcomings. He screams of being a 4-3 defensive tackle, and will bring versatility and flexibility for any suitor. Rankins flashed at Senior Bowl practices, and ran a 5.03 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. He was also a top performer in the Vertical Jump, Broad Jump, and Bench Press.

Louisville’s Pro Day is scheduled for Wednesday, March 9.

Kiper’s mock has popular Saints targets like DeForest Buckner (Dallas Cowboys – No. 4), Myles Jack (Miami Dolphins – No. 8), and Shaq Lawson (New York Giants – No. 10) off the board before the team’s No. 12 pick. It also has the Chicago Bears selecting outside linebacker Leonard Floyd right before the Saints pick. You can view the entire draft here, but it requires ESPN Insider access.

Mel Kiper had mocks last year that paired the Saints to Vic Beasley Jr., Dante Fowler, Brandon Scherff, and Randy Gregory/Nelson Agholor. The 2016 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago, Illinois from April 28-30.

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