ZMI ALPHA:NFL free agency 2021: Jets sign Saints’ Sheldon Rankins | Where does he fit in Robert Saleh’s defense, along with Quinnen Williams?

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ZMI ALPHA:NFL free agency 2021: Jets sign Saints’ Sheldon Rankins | Where does he fit in Robert Saleh’s defense, along with Quinnen Williams?

The Jets on Sunday added another potentially valuable defensive player, as they transition from a 3-4 system to new coach Robert Saleh’s 4-3 scheme — former Saints defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins.

The Jets already have a potentially elite young defensive tackle, Quinnen Williams. And Foley Fatukasi has also shown potential. Nathan Shepherd is in the mix, too, at defensive tackle.

Shepherd is entering the final year of his contract, as is Fatukasi. Williams was the third overall pick in 2019, and he looked like a budding star last season.

Rankins gives Saleh another piece in the middle of his defensive line, as he tries to stop the run. While going 2-14 last season, the Jets did few things well. But they did defend the run. They were fourth in Pro Football Focus’ run defense ratings.

Rankins was a starter in New Orleans from 2017-18, but started just one total game the past two seasons, when he played 12 and 10 games. So he’s not a lock to start with the Jets. But his arrival could squeeze out Shepherd, who didn’t play great last season.

Rankins hasn’t become a star in the NFL, but he’s still young. He’ll be 27 years old when next season begins. He has 17.5 career sacks, including eight in 2018.

He tore his Achilles tendon in the playoffs at the end of the 2018 season, so that likely impacted him in 2019 — and perhaps beyond.

Consider how Rankins stacked up against Williams, Fatukasi, and Shepherd last season, in terms of PFF grades (out of 100) …

RANKINS — 40 percent of snaps played

Overall: 63.5

Run defense: 58.2

Pass rush: 68.4

WILLIAMS — 52 percent of snaps played

Overall: 81.4

Run defense: 79.9

Pass rush: 77.7

FATUKASI — 45 percent of snaps played

Overall: 80.1

Run defense: 86.2

Pass rush: 64.0

SHEPHERD — 29 percent of snaps played

Overall: 50.7

Run defense: 50.2

Pass rush: 58.0

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Darryl Slater may be reached at dslater@njadvancemedia.com. Tell us your coronavirus story or send a tip here.

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