As he closes a successful collegiate career, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins hopes that a strong showing at the Senior Bowl will propel him to a strong draft spot.
Even though he was already considered to be among the best defensive linemen in college football last season, earning first team All-ACC honors, Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins wants to prove his worth this week at the annual Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.
Playing against the most seasoned talent in the 2016 NFL Draft, Rankins got his first chance to shine on Tuesday afternoon, as the South Team got in its first Senior Bowl practice session at Fairhope Municipal Park.
"It was real important for me," Rankins told Redskins.com of participating in the Senior Bowl. "You know, I'm a guy that loves to compete, so when the invitation was sent, I didn't hesitate in accepting and I knew it was a great platform for myself, for my school as well, to be able to come down here and represent my school and myself in such a great fashion."
Rankins participated in individual drills alongside Alabama's Jarran Reed and Baylor's Shawn Oakman among others in front of a large crowd of scouts for all 32 NFL teams.
"I think it went well," Rankins said. "You know, I obviously did some good things, but there's some things I can clean up as well from a technique standpoint. But it's just good to get out here and play some football again against some top competition and have some success."
During his senior season, Rankins tallied 58 tackles (13 for loss) along with six sacks.
Rankins was also a pass rushing nightmare for opposing offenses during his final two seasons with the Cardinals, racking up at least six sacks during both his junior and senior years.
Between being a run stopper and a gifted pass rusher, Rankins -- who stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 302 pounds -- believes he can play multiple positions at the NFL level.
"The one thing I think about myself is versatility," Rankins said. "I played anywhere from a five-technique all the way down to zero-nose, so I have experience doing a lot of different things. And I've done enough of it on tape where it's not so much a projection that you know what you're going to get, so I think that's the first thing."
Check out images of defensive lineman Sheldon Rankins during his collegiate career at Louisville.
Rankins also believes that whichever team takes a chance on him (many have graded him out to be a first-round pick in April) will quickly figure out that he has a high football IQ.
"The next thing I think about myself is [that I'm] a smart football player," Rankins said. "I understand what offenses try to attack; I understand what the defense is trying to attack as far as what an offense's weakness is. So I think those two things stand out when I think about myself."
While the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine in March will provide scouts an up-close look at Rankins in position-specific drills and even the some of the measurable tests like the 40-yard dash, Rankins is going to spend time in between getting his body prepared for what he hopes will be a successful rookie season.
"Just taking care of my body, whether it be extra stretching, extra rolling out my muscles, massages, things like that just to try to get my body in the best shape it can be for the next level," Rankins said.
And as he goes through his first true NFL activity, Rankins is going to soak up every minute of his time at the Senior Bowl.
"It's extremely special," Rankins said. "When I think back to when I first started playing football, obviously we all want this dream, but to be this close to achieving it is something I'll carry with me for the rest of my life and I'm happy to be living it."
*The 2016 Senior Bowl kicked off today with the start of practices for both teams. Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. *
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