Draft

Mississippi State OT Martinas Rankin was an All-SEC pick, but is his best position center?

Martinas Rankin
COURTESY OF MISSISSIPPI STATE ATHLETICS

Martinas Rankin arrived at Mississippi State from junior college in 2015 amid much hype, though it took him a while to live up to that hype. Now he’s receiving some acclaim heading into the run-up to the 2018 NFL draft.

Rankin (6 feet 5, 305 pounds) was one of the top junior college prospects in the nation in the 2015 recruiting cycle, but he was nowhere near ready for the rigors of major college ball and redshirted that season. Then, he started slowly in 2016 and looked as if he would be a bust. But once that season hit its mid-point, Rankin righted himself and he was one of the best linemen in the SEC in 2017 as a left tackle; he was a first-team All-SEC selection despite missing three games with an ankle injury.

He will head to next week’s NFL Scouting Combine as one of respected NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock’s top five tackles. Will he stay in Mayock’s top five? Heck, will he even stay at tackle?

RELATED: Expect some intense recruiting battles in Mississippi, which is loaded with top-fight prospects

NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein thinks Rankin will go on the second day of the draft, but he wonders if he can be an NFL left tackle – or an NFL right tackle. Indeed, Zierlein thinks Rankin’s best pro position might be center.

“His best position might be at center, where his instincts and intelligence will stand out,” Zierlein wrote. “The further Rankin kicks inside the better he will be. He may be average as a tackle or guard, but he could become a good NFL starter if he gets his shot at center.”

Zierlein thinks Rankin could have some issues with speed rushers at left tackle and might struggle as a run blocker at right tackle. He says Rankin is “unable to sustain as drive blocker.”

On the whole, though, Zierlein is a fan.

“Rankin’s length and lateral agility made him a tough blocker to beat on the outside, and he brings a strong punch and active feet in the run game, as well,” he wrote.

Rankin appears to be a lock to become just the fourth Mississippi State offensive lineman to be drafted in the past 13 years. But he would be the third to be selected in the past five drafts.

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