The Kansas City Chiefs are returning a majority of their 2020 Super Bowl Championship team, and after the NFL Draft, some positions seem to be set in stone as far as who will be playing where. One position that seems to still have major question marks regarding its personnel is the interior offensive line, particularly the guard position. It seemed to be a revolving door of players due to injury but also inconsistent play as a whole unit. Returning from the 2018 team, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and Andrew Wylie started the first few games but they were both plagued by injuries and missed time, which opened up the starting position for a very interesting pre-season pick up. Martinas Rankin was drafted out of Mississipi State in the third round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Houston Texans. The Texans wanted Rankin to play tackle, but it is clear now that Rankin is better suited for playing an interior position on the offensive line. Andy Reid and Brett Veach liked what they saw and liked the potential for Rankin to move inside so they traded RB Carlos Hyde in exchange for Rankin in late August of 2019. When sitting down to watch the tape on Rankin it is easy to see why Veach and Reid wanted Rankin.
The trait that popped in most of the film about Rankin is the way he moves in space. He is athletic enough and takes good enough angles to get to the second level, and he gets there with bad intentions. He is a nasty, big man that can move in space while playing in an offense that utilizes screen passes. This is a match made in heaven.
Rankin is also solid in pass protection, and until Stefen Wisniewski would take over the spot, Rankin was also the most consistent pass protector among the Chiefs IOL. Early teams tried to twist and stunt defensive linemen much like the New England Patriots did with success in the 2018 AFC Championship Game. The Houston Texans would try this but Rankin is ready for the twist above and gets it passed off, which is good football but what makes that play special is the shot Rankin lays on the DL for Houston. This is where Rankin’s other most notable trait comes in play, his violent hands.
Combine mobility in space, violent hands, and a nasty streak the plays above and below are the result.
Rankin has good hands for an interior player, and it is easy to see his tackle background when he goes to counter defenders pass rush. His long arms also help once he is able to win the hand placement battle because once he is able to make contact into the defender’s chest all he has to do is extend his arms and move his feet.
Rankin is better in pass protection than the run, which is likely why the Chiefs went after him but he is still adequate as a run blocker and with his big frame he is able to get defenders covered up to allow backs to get free. He uses good footwork in double teams and on single blocks. He can, however, at times get into trouble with his hand placement as well as his forward lean. This causes him to get push pulled. It doesn’t happen a lot but it is enough to give him something to improve on.
This clip provides a good vantage point of Rankin’s feet and shows him taking a good 45-degree angle with his drive and catch. Something I liked is his ability to take these short pass sets and time his feet perfectly with his hands. The hands and feet must be in sync for success, but once they take him where he needs to go we can see the vicious strike, as the DE is visibly knocked back. This rep was the best-combined effort by Rankin in pass protection from all the clips I watched of him.
A freak series of injuries caused Rankin to move to RT in week ten vs the Tennessee Titans where another freak play would cause him to injure his patella, which ended his season. It was a tough pill to swallow for the Chiefs because Rankin looked to start the rest of the season and make his claim to be one of the future protectors of the Chiefs front five. There has been little word on his recovery, but a normal patella injury takes six months to a year to recover from. As someone who is not a medical expert, I won’t try to make any assumptions about Rankin coming back or how he will perform when he returns but NFL teams are better equipped than ever before to handle injury and rehab for players so Rankins’ recovery should be in good hands. If he can retain his athletic ability, Rankin will have a very real shot of starting next season for the Chiefs and could be a staple of the offensive line for years to come.