It’s interesting to see whether defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins out of Louisville, who has picked up the interest of the Dallas Cowboys, Buffalo Bills and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, will remain the projected top 15 draft pick he is right now or the worries about his size drop him down a little bit.
In terms of his ability during his college days, Rankins is a no-brainer high pick, maybe even a top 10. He’s strong as can be with surprising quickness in his feet. He played in the three-man front for Louisville both in the middle and on the edge, finishing with 14 sacks in the last couple of seasons while adding 26.5 tackles for a loss. He’s a fantastic stopper when facing ball carriers and interior defenses couldn’t handle him during his days with the Cardinals.
But in the NFL, things are different. He’s 6’1 and just shy of 299 lbs. Many think he’s going to have a problem beating NFL-sized guards, and no one is going to make him a defensive end in a 4-3 defense. His quickness is also a huge part of his game, so bulking up to fit with the NFL standards of size for his position could take away a huge aspect of what made him so successful in college football.
All three teams need help up the middle, but Rankins is probably going to have to settle for a smaller role than he had in college, as many think that it’s ideal for him is a 4-3 nose for a one-gap defense. In anything else, him being undersized might make it too difficult for him to contribute. Sometimes size doesn’t mean everything and the motor and talent a player has overcomes it, but the change from college to pros can sometimes be overwhelming and even crushing for a player who had it really easy in the NCAA level. At the moment he’s projected to be in the top 15, but that could change into a slightly later pick.