Former Mississippi State Bulldog Martinas Rankin started his rookie season as a tackle but finished as a guard. And it might be the best thing to happen in his short NFL career, other than being
As a tackle Rankin would receive a failing grade on this rookie report card. In pass protection, he seemed completely oblivious to his surroundings, slow, and generally discomfortable. Technically, he lacked a powerful stance, quick footwork, and hand movement to create initial leverage.
Watch how Rankin fails to gain initial leverage with his hands on Adrian Clayborn (No. 94). After, he lacks the necessary kick step to combat Clayborn reeling around the edge.
And while run-blocking, the same held true.
Watch how Rankin is able to initially contain Danny Shelton (No. 71), but Shelton (a slower player) is able to rip out of the block to get the run stop. Shelton was able to expose Rankin because of a high pad-level, low stance, and void of speed to create initial hand leverage.
I was worried about Rankin’s outlook. He was the lone offensive lineman drafted by the Texans in 2018 meaning the team had a lot riding on his development.
So head coach Bill O’Brien and offensive line coach Mike Devlin decided on moving Rankin to guard, despite a lack of tackle depth. A smart move considering his lack of length for a tackle, and poor footwork while defending edge-rushers.
Though he only receiving one start at guard, he showed he belonged. He handled Fletcher Cox, Brandon Grahm, and Michael Bennett with ease.
Watch how Rankin is able to gain leverage first on Cox (No. 91), while also mirroring Cox’s hip motions. If you would like a more detailed look of his play at guard, a film review is here.
The start at guard signified promise for Rankin’s NFL future. If he can continue to develop, I believe he can become a high-level guard. He already has the needed size, strength, and brain to do so. He just needs to work on his footwork and get NFL reps to understand the speed and nuances of the NFL game.
Though the positive sample size was small, and the negative sample size was slightly bigger, he receives a passing grade. To handle three elite pass-rushers in a crucial game is impressive, no matter what level of experience.
Final grade: C+