2021 NFL Draft Prospects: Gregory Rousseau

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Today we are looking at Gregory Rousseau, the 6’7″ 265 lb. edge rusher from the University of Miami. Rousseau played just two games in 2018 before suffering a season-ending ankle injury and redshirting. As a redshirt freshman, Rousseau was a star in 2019, notching 15.5 sacks and the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year award. Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season and declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Strengths: Rousseau has all the physical tools to thrive in the NFL. He has ideal length and athleticism, and possesses a chiseled frame that is nowhere near maxed out. His pure athleticism and rare ability to convert speed to power often allows him to beat his blocker. Rousseau’s first step quickness is frightening. His ankle flexion and flattening skills allow him to turn the edge and get to the passer. Against pass-protecting tight ends, Rousseau immediately generates knockback and pressures the QB. Additionally, he has shown the ability to slide inside on 3rd down and provide pass rush presence despite going against much bigger players than him. Rousseau flashes an ability to use his length to press blockers off him to disengage in the run game. After doing so, Rousseau possesses terrific awareness in locating the ball carrier. His high-energy motor, pursuit speed, and large tackle radius allow him to chase down many plays that most defensive linemen could not. 

Weaknesses: Rousseau’s frame has muscle on it, but he needs to add much more mass in order to hold up on the edge in the NFL and more consistently set the edge against the run. Rousseau often relies too much on his athleticism to beat his blocker and needs major work on his technique, rush plan, and variety of pass-rush moves. His counters are inconsistent at this stage of his career, and his leverage use can see improvement as well. NFL-level offensive linemen will lock him up with ease if he does not develop these finer points in his game. Rousseau chose to opt out of this season, meaning we didn’t see him improve in these areas as expected in 2020. With such little experience, lacking polish is not surprising but it would have been very beneficial for him to play in 2020 and improve in that regard. 

Bottom line: Rousseau’s ceiling is very high, but his floor is also quite low. His athleticism is top-notch and won him many reps at the collegiate level, but he desperately needs to add muscle mass and develop his technique and pass-rush moves in order to find the same success at the NFL level. If he can develop his body and his game in these ways to pair with his athleticism, he can be a dominant pass rusher, but it will take a lot of development and quality coaching.

Draft Projection: Mid-late first round

Grade: 1.7 (indicative of a mid-late first round grade just outside the top 20)

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