Blogging The Boys will begin taking a look at some of the NFL Draft prospects that will be in the 2018 NFL Draft class. We’ll try to do this on a Friday night or Saturday morning so you can pay attention to that player in their next game if you should so choose. Some weeks, we will look at potential targets that will be within the Cowboys’ expected draft range. Others, we will highlight some of the elite members of the class.
As the NFL season enters week four, the college football season is in week five. By now, we can kind of tell who the legit title contenders appear to be, but there are still some question marks surrounding each team. Nonetheless, there have been big time players emerge for each team across the nation. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley and Florida State’s Derwin James are some of college football’s biggest stars, but the two will be long gone before the Cowboys are expected to pick come May.
We have already taken a look at two prospects that are expected to go in the back half of a deeply-talented first round: defensive back Tarvarus McFadden of Florida State and defensive end Austin Bryant of the defending national champs, Clemson. Obviously, both play both on the defensive side of the ball, but would the Cowboys want to choose an offensive player in round one?
If so, here’s one realistic option.
Martinas Rankin — Offensive Line, Mississippi State
Martinas Rankin is expected to be among the top offensive tackle talents in the 2018 NFL Draft class. The 6-foot-5, 315 pound offensive lineman anchors an offensive line that has yet to allow a sack through four weeks of play, despite playing both LSU and Georgia’s loaded defensive lines. Mississippi State is one of the most explosive rushing offenses in all of the nation, and Rankin’s blocking ability is a huge reason why.
Rankin redshirted his first season on campus, which happened to be Dak Prescott’s final season on the collegiate level. He arrived to Mississippi State in the 2015 signing class as a top five overall JUCO prospect and the number one JUCO offensive tackle in the nation, according to 247Sports. Needless to say, he was always expected to grow into a monstrous lineman for Dan Mullen’s squad in Starkville.
Last season, he finally got his chance to start. The redshirt-junior won the starting job at left tackle for the Bulldogs. While he had some bright moments, he also struggled against the LSU’s and Alabama’s of the world during his first season as a starter in the SEC. Nonetheless, his enormous size, versatility to play different positions across the offensive line, and potential to develop into a franchise tackle caught the radars of scouts.
Rankin’s ability to play at different spots along the offensive line was put to display this spring when the Mississippi State coaching staff used him at the center spot during spring practice. Ultimately, the Bulldogs preferred Rankin at the second most important position on the field: left tackle. Thus far, Rankin has been even better than he was a season ago. Mississippi State has yet to allow a single sack heading into week five — even after facing Arden Key and LSU and Lorenzo Carter and Georgia — and the Bulldogs’ rushing attack accounts for 267.5 yards per game, good for 14th nationally.
Rankin has been a huge reason why the Bulldogs have been successful:
Mississippi State LT Martinas Rankin has allowed just 2 QB pressures and 0 sacks this season.— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) September 26, 2017
Georgia's Isaiah Wynn, a converted guard, has been the SEC's most efficient left tackle in pass protection so far this season pic.twitter.com/FYR4TAoAT8— CFB Film Room (@CFBFilmRoom) September 29, 2017
Why would the Dallas Cowboys opt to go offensive line in round one? Well, there is obviously no guarantee that they do. However, our own VAfan wrote on the Cowboys’ five flaws thus far. He mentions that the offensive line play hasn’t been the same as in years past.
This year, with Ron Leary gone to free agency and Doug Free retired, the Cowboys line has not been the same. As we just mentioned in our snap counts article, Pro Football Focus gives terrible grades to Chaz Green and La’el Collins and mediocre grades to Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick, with only Zack Martin seeming to uphold the standards we expect out of the Dallas line.
Furthermore, CBS Sports’ Chris Trapasso also believes that Dallas may want to look at an offensive lineman on day one in April. Here are his thoughts on Rankin:
29. Dallas Cowboys
Martinas Rankin, OL, Mississippi State. Feels weird typing this, but the Cowboys offensive line needs some work. For real. The losses of Doug Free and Ronald Leary have loomed large in September. Picking Rankin, a monstrous, NFL-ready offensive tackle, would allow La'El Collins to kick inside to guard where he'd be much more comfortable and effective.
Now, things could certainly change before now and the end of the season, obviously. Chaz Green and La’el Collins both have the talent to grow into reliable linemen for the Cowboys, but it’s taking them time to learn new positions. It doesn’t help that they have had to play the Giants, Broncos, and Cardinals back-to-back-to-back to open the season, either. It’s no secret that the Cowboys are at their best when the run game is on, which makes the offensive line play that much more important.
If things do not improve in the coming weeks, it is not unreasonable to think that Dallas may want to explore improving the line. If that’s the case, Rankin would be a smart option at the back-end of the first round. He knows how to protect the passer, and he is solid in run blocking, too. Martinas Rankin’s size, versatility, and plug-and-play ability makes him a highly intriguing option.
Could Martinas Rankin follow Dak Prescott’s steps and become the next big time Dallas Cowboy from Mississippi State?