New Orleans Saints 2016 NFL Draft Profile: Sheldon Rankins

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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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The New Orleans Saints and Sheldon Rankins could pair together like cheese and wine, so we profile the Louisville defensive lineman and suggest how he may fit down on the bayou.

It’s that time of the year again, football fans.  With the 2016 NFL Draft kicking off at the end of the month, we begin our prospect profiles with Louisville defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins, a trendy name in New Orleans Saints draft discussions who continues to climb the big boards.

Measureables:
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 299 LBS
Arm length: 33 3/8 inches
Hands: 9 3/8 inches

Combine Results:
40-yard dash: 5.03 seconds
Bench press (225 LBS): 28 reps
Vertical: 34.5 inches
Broad jump: 118 inches
3-cone drill: 7.44 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.59 seconds

Analysis:
At the collegiate level Sheldon Rankins proved that he could do it all as a defensive team captain.  Whether it was attacking from the middle, rushing from the edge, or plugging the gaps, production was not hard to come by.

He’s not the biggest defensive tackle in the draft, but his strength, power, speed, and footwork off the snap outweigh it.  He’s a hardworking, ‘all-over-the-field’ kind of player, attacking ball carriers any chance he gets.  His versatility and flexibility make him a perfect fit for virtually any scheme, while granting him the capabilities to play any position along the defensive line.

There’s really not much to dislike about Sheldon Rankins.  Other than his lack of ideal size, which could leave some teams in question, his tape and other traits scream excellency.

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How he fits with the New Orleans Saints:
As we all know, the New Orleans Saints have holes to fill on the defensive line, despite the Nick Fairley signing in free agency.  There is potential talent already on the roster, but it isn’t guaranteed — they can’t rely on mid-late-round picks and undrafted free agents from a season ago (Tyler Davison, Bobby Richardson, etc) turning into gold.  You will be a bad football team if that’s your motive. We saw that from the Saints in 2015, but they really had no choice.

Rankins is a day-one draft prospect, a top-15 type of talent.  There’s a chance he doesn’t even fall to the New Orleans Saints at No. 12, but it’s also very likely he does.  Between his abilities along the entire defensive front that made him productive as a bull rusher, run stuffer, and edge rusher in college, he seems to possess all the intangibles to be a perfect fit for the Saints’ defense.

New Orleans was poor against the run in 2015, and head coach Sean Payton already said a pass rusher was the team’s biggest need this offseason.  Drafting Rankins could sort of kill two birds with one stone there.  A line comprised of Cam Jordan, Nick Fairley, John Jenkins, and Rankins could potentially wreak havoc on opposing offenses. We’ll see how it goes when draft day arrives April 28.

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