News of scheduled player visits with the Bucs continue to trickle in Monday. The first was Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence, and the latest is Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, according to Mike Garafolo. Rankins is considered the top defensive tackle in this year’s class, and also has interviews scheduled with the Cowboys and Bills.
Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins visiting Bills, Bucs, Cowboys this week. Dallas interesting. No. 4 is high so trade back/up into late 1st rd?
— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) April 4, 2016
Sheldon Rankins may appear to be an unorthodox pick for some and hasn’t been a popular pick in mock drafts across the web, but there seems to be some fire behind this smoke. The well-tapped-in guys at Pewter Report have been mocking Rankins to the Bucs for weeks, and have said that the Bucs aren’t particularly enamored with the value of some of the other players likely to be available at pick nine. If the blue chip players like Jalen Ramsey and Myles Jack are gone and a trade down opportunity doesn’t arise, Rankins makes a lot of sense.
From a roster perspective, adding a defensive tackle high in this draft is easy to forecast. The team has chosen not to bring back Tony McDaniel or Henry Melton, Clinton McDonald is aging and coming off of a season-ending injury, Akeem Spence is unproven and on a lame-duck contract, and Gerald McCoy has had his fair share of injuries in the past. Defensive tackle is very clearly a need for the Bucs.
Rankins is an intriguing fit from an X’s and O’s standpoint as well. He’s been projected commonly as a 3-technique in the NFL, but played all over the defensive line at Louisville with varying degrees of success. That versatility is almost certainly one of the reasons that the Bucs are interested, as new defensive coordinator Mike Smith has promised to attack offenses with multiple fronts and formations.
It’s no secret that the Bucs desperately want to improve their pass rush, and this leads many to assume that they will use the ninth pick on a defensive end but there are many ways to skin the cat that is pass rush; adding a strong, athletic defensive tackle to the middle of the line is one of those ways.