2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Gregory Rousseau
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Rousseau enter the NFL as a 1-year wonder, having shown a brief flash of ability in his short collegiate career. In 2018 as a true freshman, Rousseau played in two games before going down with a season-ending ankle injury. He then was one of the best edge defenders in college football in 2019. The redshirt freshman collected 15.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, 19.5 tackles for a loss and 54 tackles on the year. Rousseau was second to Ohio State's Chase Young in sacks that season. Because of COVID-19, Rousseau decided to sit out the 2020 season and enter the 2021 NFL Draft.
In Jon Gruden's book "Do You Love Football?!," Gruden shared a conversation with the late Al Davis in which they spoke about what they considered the most important positions in football. The two legends agreed that after quarterback, edge rusher was the important position on a defense and the second-most important position on the team. In the passing-driven NFL, players who can get after the quarterback and neutralize an elite signal-caller are always in demand. Thus, Rousseau will have plenty of teams interested in drafting him this April.
Rousseau is a natural quarterback hunter who has a good skill set to go along with a nose for the signal-caller. He is an instinctive edge rusher who shows an excellent ability to read-and-react. With good vision and feel, Rousseau adjusts to the quarterback to chase him down as he moves in the pocket. It was very impressive to see Rousseau in 2019, despite being a young player, keeping his eyes on the quarterback while working through blocks and executing moves to shed blocks. He was a very advanced rusher for a young player with intelligence beyond his years.
From a physical talent standpoint, Rousseau has a very good skill set. He has a quick first-step and a burst to close on the quarterback. While Rousseau is not a blazing fast edge rusher like a Von Miller, he is quick, and when he works himself free he finishes the rush in a hurry. Rousseau also has good size with some functional strength and length, which make it difficult for offensive linemen to sustain blocks. In 2019, he showed a superb ability to use his hands and feet at the same time while also keeping his eyes on the quarterback. Rousseau showed an effective bull rush, rip move, and speed to run past blockers. Even though he is a tall defender, Rousseau is not stiff and has the agility to sink his hips to redirect. Working on refining and adding more pass-rushing moves would help him in his pro career, as that will make him more effective for taking on NFL offensive linemen.
The combination of size, agility, and functional strength allows Rousseau to be a versatile defender. Miami lined him up on the edge and inside at tackle in the sub package. He was very dangerous in the pass rush against guards, and for the NFL, he could provide that added dimension. He also looked pretty good in space, so Rousseau could have the ability to be a 3-4 outside linebacker as well.
In run defense, Rousseau is solid and is at his best when he works upfield to cause disruption in the backfield. Rousseau has the size and strength to hold his gap to stop the run. For the NFL, it would help him to get stronger, and that would improve his ability to defend downhill runs coming straight at him. Rousseau is young, so he has the time and frame to add strength.
Rousseau looks likely to be a top-20 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Some team sources feel Rousseau was overhyped and overrated with projections high in the first round, but he still looks safe to end up as a top-20 selection.
Player Comparison: Montez Sweat. Sweat broke out in his second season with nine sacks and showed his dynamic skill set. Sweat (6-6, 262) and Rousseau are almost identical in size with good speed and athleticism. Sweat could continue to grow into being a double-digit, sacker and Rousseau has that potential as well.
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