Sheldon Rankins Will Make the Saints' Defense Better, Because It Can't Get Much Worse
While he may not be the shiny top prize for teams looking for an interior defensive lineman that Deforrest Buckner was, Sheldon Rankins is an impressive prospect, and should have a serious impact for the New Orleans Saints.
Rankins was a three-year starter at Louisville, recording 133 tackles and 18.0 sacks in 33 games.
At 6'1" and 299 pounds, there have been concerns about his size at the next level. Just how undersized he is becomes obvious when you take a look at his measurables compared to other defensive tackle prospects (courtesy of MockDraftable):
A lot jumps out right away here. He's one of the smaller defensive tackle prospects you're going to see, in only the first percentile for height and 32nd for weight.
He also stacks up as absolutely elite in his explosiveness, with a 95th percentile vertical jump and 98th percentile broad jump, while he also shows solid agility with his 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle drills.
The extremes (both high and low) in his measurables make him tough to compare to other prospects from a physical standpoint, and the highest similarity MockDraftable gives him to any other defensive tackle prospect is 80 percent -- which is quite low.
That leaves us with some mystery about how someone with his measurables will translate to the NFL level, but what we do know is that he stacks up impressively on the field.
He is ProFootballFocus' second-ranked interior defender in the draft class, and has received their second-highest interior defender grade over the past two seasons.
They're high on his explosiveness and quickness, traits that aren't surprising when you look at his combine numbers, as well as his ability to use his height to his advantage, gaining leverage over offensive linemen.
How he Fits
Our Net Expected Points (NEP) database dates back to the 2000 season, and our numbers have never seen a defense as inept as the 2015 New Orleans Saints.
If you were grading out the Saints pre-draft needs, just about every defensive position would likely top your list, so it's easy to like them bringing in a prospect as intriguing as Rankins. He'll join one of the defense's other bright spots in Cameron Jordan on the defensive line.
Rankins isn't a player that's going to completely change the fortune of your defense, but on a Saints team that had one of the best offenses in the league last season, ranking second in NEP per play, the defense doesn't need to jump into the ranks of the elite, and even a step up to "competent" could go a long way to getting the Saints back into the playoff hunt.
Here's a taste of what Rankins was capable at the college level to get you excited for what he can do for the Saints: