Sheldon Rankins Scouting Report By Charlie Campbell
Good run defender
A burst to close
Tough to move
Played a variety of techniques
Powerful bull rush
Maintains his gap in run defense
Lacks elite speed
Inconsistent at shedding blocks
College tape didn't match Senior Bowl performance
Doesn't have a great get-off on tape, better in Mobile
Not a great fit for a 3-4.
Summary: Over the past few years, Louisville has produced some good NFL talent thanks to strong recruiting classes from former coach Charlie Strong. That group includes DeVante Parker, Calvin Pryor, Lorenzo Mauldin and Teddy Bridgewater. The Cardinals have had a lot of good pro talent, and Rankins is their top prospect this year.
Rankins had a breakout year for Louisville in 2014 with Mauldin drawing attention off the edge. As a junior, Rankins totaled nine sacks, 54 tackles and 14.5 tackles for a loss. In 2015, the senior saw more double teams, but that helped Devonte Fields to have an excellent second half of the year. Rankins recorded 58 tackles with 13 for a loss and six sacks for 2015.
While he played well in his final season, Rankins really helped himself at the Senior Bowl. He flashed as a good interior pass-rusher in college, and he showed that off in Mobile by excelling in the one-on-ones. Offensive linemen really struggled to keep him out of the backfield.
As a pro, Rankins' best fit would come as a three-technique defensive tackle in a 4-3 defense. He has natural pad level with the strength to bull rush into the pocket. Rankins is a stout run defender who is tough to move at the point of attack. He actually flashed some quickness at the Senior Bowl, but his game tape didn't show the same get-off when the ball was snapped. Rankins played across the defensive line at Louisville, but he isn't a good fit in a 3-4 defense as a nose tackle or five-technique.
In speaking with sources, they say that Rankins' game tape is not as impressive as his Senior Bowl performance. That makes him a harder evaluation because teams question which player they're getting. At the Senior Bowl, Rankins looked like a mid first-rounder. His draft range looks like it could be from the middle of to the late first round.
Player Comparison: Jonathan Babineaux. Babineaux is aging, but he had a good run with the Falcons. At his best, Babineaux was a quick, disruptive defender who made his presence felt behind the line of scrimmage. At the Senior Bowl, Rankins' game resembled Babineaux (6-2, 200), but the Atlanta defender was more consistent. They are almost identical in size and have similar combinations of quickness and strength. The Falcons selected Babineax (6-2, 300) in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft out of Iowa. Rankins is likely to go higher than that.
NFL Matches: Detroit, New York Giants, Detroit, Oakland, New Orleans, Atlanta, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Arizona, Seattle and Denver
There are a lot of teams that could take Rankins in the 2016 NFL Draft. In Walt's mock draft, he has had Rankins going as high as to the Giants at the 10th-overall pick. New York needs to get more pass rush out of its defensive line. End is a bigger need than tackle, but Rankins could be tempting for the Giants to upgrade their pass rush from the interior.
The middle of the first round could be a sweet spot for Rankins as there are a lot of options with teams picking in the teens. The Saints have to upgrade their defense, particularly against the pass. Rankins would give them an interior rusher, which they don't really have. Oakland could use an interior pass-rusher to pair with heavy nose tackle Justin Ellis.
The Lions badly need to upgrade their defensive tackles. Rankins would give them an interior defender to rush the quarterback and could be a nice defender to pair with Ziggy Ansah.
Atlanta had the worst pass rush in the NFL last year. If there isn't a good edge rusher available, Rankins could make sense as the Falcons' replacement for Jonathan Babineaux.
Kyle Williams is aging for the Bills, and Buffalo could easily address the front seven this offseason. Rankins' pass rush would also help to offset the loss of Mario Williams.
Late in the first round, Cincinnati could be a fit for Rankins. The Bengals could use another tackle to complement Geno Atkins. Brandon Thompson and Devon Still didn't turn into starters, while Domata Peko is aging and declining.
Rankins could also be in play for the Cardinals. They have to replace Darnell Dockett and want to improve their pass rush this offseason. Rankins could form a nice duo with Calais Campbell. Seattle could use an interior pass-rusher as well. Brandon Mebane is aging, plus the Seahawks have had problems with the interior rush once injuries have hit their defense.
Denver locked up Derek Wolfe, but will be looking hard at defensive line talent in this draft. Malik Jackson may not be re-signed for one. Antonio Smith and Vance Walker also aren't long-term players while some other defensive lineman aren't far from free agency. Rankins could be a fit for the Super Bowl champs.