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Cowboys 2016 Draft Prospect Profile: Louisville Defensive Tackle Sheldon Rankins

The Cowboys held their 30 national visits earlier this month, let's take a deep dive on one of the prospects.

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

This series will examine all draft prospects that have official invites to Valley Ranch. Previous research has shown these players are the most likely to be drafted by the Cowboys. For more explanation, read the opening paragraphs here.

Name: Sheldon Rankins
Position: Defensive Tackle
School: Louisville
Height: 6’ 1 1/8"
Weight: 299 LBs


Third Team All-ACC


Third Team All-ACC

Athletic Profile

pSparq Score: 124.6 Z-Score: 1.0 NFL Percentile: 83.3

pSparq is an approximation of the "Sparq Score" metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. By standardizing a single metric composed of multiple athletic test results, it becomes possible to compare players to the athletic testing scores of players in past draft classes, and to provide context as to how a player will compare athletically to his peers at the NFL level. The Z-Score represents the number of standard deviations (sigma) above or below the mean at a particular position that player falls, 84% of players will have a Z-score of less than 1, 98% will have a Z-score of less than 2, and 99.87% will fall below a Z-Score of 3. There are currently a total of four players who are "3 Sigma Athletes" in the NFL, JJ Watt, Byron Jones, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out

Measurables vs others at his position:


Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results.  The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player’s peers by position.  A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.

Games Studied: Kentucky, NC State, Florida State, Auburn

Passing Game:

Rankins played primarily defensive tackle for Louisville in both their even and odd fronts, but took a significant number of snaps at defensive end for the Cardinals in the Kentucky game. When playing inside he is a disruptive player who gets off the ball well, and plays effectively with his hands to create separation from his blocker. He uses a swim move, rip move, and a swipe move to win the gap. When he goes with a power rush, he uses both a two handed bull rush and a long arm to get his blocker off balance and create push in the pocket. There are times when he rushes down the middle of his man that he will struggle to disengage, but he is a relentless player in the rush.

Run Game:

Rankins is a guy who is very disruptive in the run game. His first step, and powerful hands regularly reset the point of attack in the opponent’s backfield, and create opportunities for himself and his teammates to make plays behind the line of scrimmage. He is an aware player who plays with his eyes, and will work off blocks at the right moment. There are times when he gets double-teamed where his opponent will create movement, push him off the ball, or get him turned.

Conclusion/Cowboys Projection: Rankins projects to play inside as an under tackle in the Cowboys’ defense. The way he gets up the field against the pass and run is exactly the style of play that Rod Marinelli wants from his interior rushmen. Rankins is another of those players who will likely be drafted late in the top ten or early teens, and will likely be one of the potential targets if the Cowboys take a trade down offer from the fourth-overall pick.

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