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New Orleans Saints 2016 season recap: Sheldon Rankins

Saints first-round pick delivered once he got on the field

A look at Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins throughout the 2016 season.

There has to be a certain amount of salivating by the New Orleans Saints regarding rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, and understandably so.

Rankins, New Orleans' first-round draft pick (No. 12 overall), was working with the No. 1 defense in training camp when he broke his fibula, and showed exactly why he was starting – and possibly will do so for a long time – when he was able to get back on the field for the final nine games of the season.

In his abbreviated time, Rankins posted four sacks (tied for third-most on the team) and had 20 tackles (15 solo), plus a forced fumble. All told, the Saints got 10.5 sacks from two defensive tackles – Rankins and Nick Fairley, whose 6.5 was second on the team – and everyone was left to wonder exactly what Rankins' numbers and impact would have been if he'd been available for all 16 games.

The answer may be provided during the 2017 season. Rankins certainly provided grounds for the interest.

BEST GAME:Perhaps, it's no coincidence that the Saints' defense had a noticeable uptick going when Rankins returned from injury. New Orleans' 49-21 demolition of the Rams most notably was remembered for the seven-touchdown explosion, but Rankins and the defense quietly did their part, too. He had two tackles, a sack and a forced fumble against Los Angeles, as the Saints completed a four-game run in which the defense allowed 23 or fewer points in each game.

BEST QUOTE:"You're the best rookie I've seen since me." – Defensive end Cam Jordan, to Rankins

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