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2016 NFL Draft: Potential Panther? Sheldon Rankins

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At just over six-foot-one, and only 304 pounds, Rankins may not fit the "Hog Molly" profile preferred by Panthers' GM Dave Gettleman, but he is a disruptive presence on the defensive line, whose production has been among the best in the nation the past two seasons.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

While Rankins will be viewed by some as undersized, Senior Bowl Senior Director Phil Savage compared him to former UNC DT Sylvester Williams, a late first-rounder of the Broncos in 2013.

Rankins is a two-plus year starter for Louisville. The Cardinals' defensive coordinator Todd Grantham (former Browns DC) brought a pro-system to Louisville. They use a base 3-4, where Rankins has aligned at both DE and at nose. When Louisville goes to it's sub package, he slides to a 1- or 3-technique.

Rankins had 26.5 tackles for loss, with 14 sacks over the past two seasons.

Rankins was ProFootballFocus' highest-graded defensive interior lineman during the 2014 season, sliding only slightly in their rankings this past season.

In his preview, Rotoworld draft analyst Josh Norris ranked Rankins as the best prospect at the Senior Bowl. He explained "Rankins is ahead of the game in terms of hand use", praising his "pass rushing awareness".

Optimum Scouting's Eric Galco wrote of Rankins' Senior Bowl performance thus far "Rankins, from Louisville was completely dominant. He showed impressive burst and athleticism, and array of moved pass rushing and versus the run, and read the offensive line play beautifully".

Edit, Rankins will miss the rest of the week after injuring his knee on Thursday.

Draft Insider Tony Pauline recently graded Rankins as just a 3-4th rounder, but it appears once again Pauline may be lower than the rest of the analysts.

ESPN's Todd McShay listed Rankins as the No. 19 prospect in his Jan. 8 Top 32. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah's Jan. 17 mock projects Rankins the No. 21 pick by Washington.

Jeremiah said after Wednesday's Senior Bowl practice "He can win with quickness or power. He has an explosive get-off and powerful hands. He plays like someone 25 pounds lighter. He's an all-day first-round pick."

This time, cohort Lance Zierlein agrees (almost), ranking Rankins 35th in his January version of his top-100.

Zierlein writes the draft profiles for NFL.com, and has a lot of positive things to say. "Everything he does is explosive. Fires into blockers and can jolt and displace them with a combination of leverage and power. Elite foot quickness for interior defender. Can hold the point of attack or play in gaps....a great motor and outstanding feel for his position. Don't be shocked to see him fall a little in the draft due to his small stature. (Interestingly, he compares him to Grady Jarrett, who slid to the fifth-round last spring.)

CBSSports.com's Dane Bugler projects Rankins as the No. 28 pick going to the Kansas City Chiefs.

Dane Brugler explains:

Has the lateral quickness to stunt and loop around bodies to close on the pocket. He displays terrific effort and is a determined chaser to catch ballcarriers from behind away from the line of scrimmage.

Rankins has heavy hands and terrific initial momentum to generate movement at the point of attack, seeing through blocks to accurately track the ball. He redirects well for a man his size, collecting himself on the move to break down in small spaces.

For what it's worth, Rankins had the best production ratio of any of the top defensive tackles over the past two seasons. (Thanks to Blogging the Boys writer One.Cool.Customer for chart below)

Rank Player School Position Height Weight Sacks TFL Games Career Last 2 Yrs
54 Sheldon Rankins Louisville DT 6'1" 303 17 31.5 45 1.08 1.56
176 Anthony Zettel Penn St DT/DE 6'4" 278 16 38.0 50 1.08 1.54
258 Quinton Jefferson Maryland DT 6'3" 287 10.5 27.0 37 1.01 1.40
15 Andrew Billings Baylor DT 6'1" 310 8 29.5 37 1.01 1.32
585 Mehdi Abdesmad Boston College DT 6'6" 286 7.5 21.5 32 0.91 1.28
112 Sheldon Day Notre Dame DT 6'1" 285 6.5 32.0 48 0.80 1.17
169 Matt Ioannidis Temple DT 6'3" 292 10 30.0 44 0.91 1.13
44 Austin Johnson Penn St DT 6'3" 325 9.5 24.0 38 0.88 1.10
200 Willie Henry Michigan DT 6'2" 310 10 18.0 35 0.80 1.09
241 Hassan Ridgeway Texas DT 6'3" 320 9.5 17.0 36 0.74 1.06
96 Vernon Butler Louisiana Tech DT 6'3" 309 5 29.0 49 0.69 1.00
66 Adolphus Washington Ohio St DT 6'4" 290 12.5 25.0 49 0.77 0.96
144 Maliek Collins Nebraska DT 6'2" 300 11 18.0 38 0.76 0.90
30 Kenny Clark UCLA DT 6'2" 310 7 20.5 39 0.71 0.87
155 Adam Gotsis Georgia Tech DT 6'5" 285 11.5 27.5 48 0.81 0.76
232 Delvon Simmons USC DT 6'5" 295 8 20.5 50 0.57 0.67
22 Robert Nkemdiche Ole Miss DT 6'3" 296 7 19.0 35 0.74 0.67
91 Chris Jones Miss St DT 6'5" 308 11.5 18.0 39 0.76 0.63
9 A'Shawn Robinson Alabama DT 6'3" 312 9 22.0 42 0.74 0.60
188 Luther Maddy Virginia Tech DT 6'0" 293 9 29.5 56 0.69 0.59
314 Antwaun Woods USC DT 6'1" 320 5 14.5 50 0.39 0.48
29 Jarran Reed Alabama DT 6'3" 313 7 11.0 29 0.62 0.45
116 Nile Lawrence-Sample Florida St DT 6'1" 305 6.5 6.5 37 0.35 0.38
214 D.J. Reader Clemson DT 6'2" 325 5 9.0 47 0.30 0.29

(Editor's Note: The Production Ratio is displayed in the last two columns of the above chart. For more information on Production Ratio, click here.)

The "Rank" on the table is from CBS Draft Ranking ( per January 15th), with "Production Ratio" being equal to sacks + tackles for loss divided by the number of games played.

Rankins is consistently the first off the ball, and one of the rare players that can get up the field from the 1-technique spot.

I kind of want to pump the breaks a bit. While I am not suggesting this as a true comp, to me Rankins level of play and body type suggest that he should come off the board around where the Ravens' selected former Florida State DT Timmy Jernigan, with the 48th pick.