The Bills have announced that they scheduled a pre-draft visit with Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins. This is no surprise given the many holes the Bills must fill on the defensive side of the ball. Rankins is a versatile defensive talent that had a very productive college career.
Over the last two years Rankins compiled 111 tackles, 26.5 tackles for loss and 14 sacks. That is quite impressive considering that the Cardinals primarily play a two gap scheme.
Rex Ryan prefers defensive lineman in his scheme to possess the following characteristics:
- Recognition Skills
He has the explosiveness wanted in a defensive lineman and the motor to keep pressure on the QB. His explosiveness was confirmed at the combine with a 4.59 second short shuttle and a 34.5 vertical jump.
Louisville’s defensive front was very similar to Rex Ryan’s defense, it was a mixture of three man fronts but also some hybrid like assignments for many of the defensive lineman. When lined up opposite of their “Rush LB” (Jerry Hughes position), Rankins executed very similar assignments. Here he is a rush-contain player.
The Cards use him as a contain player as they run a game with the left side of the line.
The multiple defensive looks by the Cardinals were solely based on the versatility of Rankins. The whole defense revolved around him. Offensive coordinators had to account for him on every play.
On this play the Cardinals are in a four man front and Rankins is aligned in a 3 technique. This allows him to utilize his first step and up-field explosiveness. In pass rush situations he consistently beats the first blocker in a double team causing chaos in the face of the QB.
Although Rankins is only 6’1″, 299 pounds his skills afforded defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to move him up and down the line. His skill set was superior to most interior lineman at the collegiate level so he was able to lineup over the center in certain play-calls and make a difference.
Rankins showing off his athleticism
I don’t think that he can be used as a nose tackle in base packages in the NFL. Only in sub packages/obvious pass situations. Rex Ryan loves bringing exotic blitzes or stunts. He shows great change of direction and agility to force the QB to get rid of the ball. Rankins would be a force in these situations.
Here as a 5 tech defensive end he shows off his swim move. The line slides to Rankins but the tackle doesn’t help the guard out and Rankins shoots the gap for the pressure.
Defensive lineman in Rex’ scheme must be able to read blocking assignments quickly. Rankins reads the screen and then shows off his pursuit.
Rankins no doubt has the explosiveness to affect pass concepts, but he needs to build on his pass rush combination moves if the Bills want him to be an every down difference maker. His primary pass rush moves are his bull rush and his swim move. Here he shows his bull rush and rip.
He does have strong hands and punch.
Sheldon Rankins during Louisville Pro Day pic.twitter.com/duLHC1vMRH
— Michael McCammon (@mcmichael20) March 9, 2016
Here he stacks the lineman, sheds and makes the tackle. He will have no trouble versus the run in the NFL whether he is inside at the 3 tech or closer to the edge as a 5 tech. He has the length needed with a reach of 33 3/8″.
He won’t have as much success with the bull rush move in the NFL, as most of the lineman will have similar talent and strength. It will be interesting to see if his success at the collegiate level will translate to the NFL
Many mock experts have the Bills taking Rankins at 19, and I wouldn’t be surprised. The Bills have a need for a versatile defensive lineman. Rex Ryan would love to have a player like Rankins, he could use him in every defense that he runs. If they draft him, he will be a player that really doesn’t fit the mold of defensive lineman that Rex has drafted. Rankins is considerably smaller than the defensive ends/defensive tackles that Rex has drafted to play in his scheme. But there is no doubt that Rankins has the skills to make a difference immediately and the potential to grow into a solid starter in the NFL.
Other draft breakdowns: