Expected to be one of the first players taken in the 2016 NFL Draft, Sheldon Rankins believes he can be a strong run stopper who is more than capable of getting into the backfield.
While Sheldon Rankins is only concerned about his immediate future pertaining to the NFL Draft, the Louisville defensive lineman said he'd be lying if he wasn't paying attention to his ranking against his 2016 NFL Draft classmates, particularly the defensive linemen.
There's such quality of depth at defensive line this year, and Rankins sees that while he's a projected first-round pick, his standing among prospects at the position varies.
"I think anybody that stands up here and says they don't pay attention to it, they'd be lying just a little bit because it's all a competition," Rankins said in February at the NFL Combine. "We're here to compete. Obviously, I've talked to a lot of those guys and I'm cool with a lot of those guys. We talk all the time, have fun, jokes all the time, but at the end of the day, it's a competition. We're all here trying to get paid, we're all here trying to change our life situation. So if I said I didn't pay attention to it, I'd be lying, but at the end of the day, I control what I can control and I'm going to go out here and put my best foot forward."
Rankins not only put his best foot forward during his college career, he was among the best players in Division I last season.
He earned second-team All-ACC honors, totaling 58 tackles (13 for loss) along with six sacks and a fumble return for touchdown.
At 6-foot-1, 299 pounds, Rankins isn't exactly the biggest player in this year's class, but he believes he has the traits necessary to make a name for himself as a professional.
"I just feel like I bring so much to the table," Rankins said. "I feel like I'm versatile enough to play in any scheme. I feel like I'm versatile enough to play all up and down the defensive line. I feel like I'm intelligent enough to grasp just about any defense and I feel like I'm dynamic enough to stay on the field all three downs. So when you put all those things together, I just feel like coming into this process, I was looking to set myself apart and I'm looking to continue to do so."
Check out images of defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins during his collegiate career at Louisville.
While it was understood that Rankins is likely a strong player against the run, some questioned his ability as a pass rusher.
He cooled the flames on that debate at January's Senior Bowl practices, though.
"Just going in, I heard a lot of people questioning my ability to win a one-on-one pass rush," Rankins said. "I think a lot of guys knew that I could play the run, I was stout against the run, things like that. But a lot of people questioned my ability to win one-on-one pass rush. So going into that week, I just wanted to be explosive, be violent, go win one-on-one pass rushes when I got the chance to win those. And I feel like I did so. I feel like I went down there with the mindset to go out each day in practice and dominate."
Later this month, Rankins will likely hear his name called sometime on the first night of the NFL Draft.
It will be the conclusion of a chapter in his life, one that put him in the position to potentially excel in the NFL.
"First and foremost, I think my tape speaks for itself," Rankins said. "I think that, when you put my tape on, I'm able to do a lot of the things that I feel like NFL coaches want their players to do. I feel like I'm able to carry myself as a professional. I feel like I'm able to go about my business the right way as far as within the community, the locker room, film room, things like that. So when you add all those things in together, I feel like I'm a first-round pick."