Jun 14, 2016; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (99) during the first day of minicamp sessions at the New Orleans Saints Training Facility. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
#2. Sheldon Rankins
When the Saints took Sheldon Rankins with the 12th overall pick, the message was clear: the defense had to improve, specifically the pass rush.
Rankins is arguably the most high profile player on this list because he is a first round draft pick. However, the Saints need him to have an immediate impact as a rookie.
The defense needs help yesterday, and the Drew Brees window is closing.
“All too often, Jordan would generate pressure from the edge, only for opposing quarterbacks to step up in the pocket”
A season ago, the Saints gave up 45 passing touchdowns, the most in NFL history.
A large reason for this was the fact that aside from Cameron Jordan, they were unable to generate any pressure up front. All too often, Jordan would generate pressure from the edge, only for opposing quarterbacks to step up in the pocket and deliver a strike downfield.
The Saints are looking for Sheldon Rankins to change all of that. During his past two seasons at Louisville, Rankins was an absolute force, racking up 14 sacks during this period.
Last season, the interior lineman for the Saints, Tyeler Davidson and John Jenkins combined for less than 3 sacks. That’s simply not good enough in the NFL.
Sheldon Rankins has drawn early comparison to the LA Rams best defensive player, Aaron Donald. If Rankins produces anywhere near the level of Donald, the Saints will have struck gold with their first round pick.
Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins (photo courtesy of Michael C. Hebert, neworleanssaints.com)
The addition of Nick Fairley cannot be overlooked here.
In the base defense, it’s probable that Fairley and Rankins will rotate, but in passing situations look for both players to be on the field at the same time, with the singular mission of getting to the quarterback. Pressure leads to interceptions, and coverage leads to sacks.
However, the Saints entire defensive plan next season hinges on the last player on this list.
Next: The Captain