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2021 NFL Draft prospect profile: Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami

Could Rousseau still be the first EDGE off the board?

Miami v Florida International Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Who is the top edge defender in the 2021 NFL Draft?

We have seen a number of different prospects get the nod from a variety of different draft analysts. For the early part of the 2020 college season, the consensus top EDGE was Gregory Rousseau from Miami. Rousseau was expected to be the next great pass rusher to come out of college following a break-out sophomore campaign that saw him rack up 19.5 tackles for a loss and 15.5 sacks.

However, he opted out of the 2020 season and slipped down the draft board as draft analysts spent more time with his tape and grasped just how raw he is as a prospect.

Will Rousseau still be the first EDGE off the board? Will teams be excited by the potential he showed as a sophomore?

Prospect: Gregory Rousseau

Games Watched: vs. Florida (2019), vs. Pittsburgh (2019), vs. Louisville (2019), vs. Virginia Tech (2019)

Measurables

Career Stats

Games Played: 14
Tackles: 59
Tackles For a loss: 19.5
Sacks: 15.5
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 1

2019 Stats

Games Played: 13
Tackles: 54
Tackles For a loss: 19.5
Sacks: 15.5
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 1

Quick Summary

Best: Length, competitive toughness, long speed
Worst: Hand usage, technique, bend, track record
Projection: A starting 3-4 or 4-3 EDGE defender.

Game Tape

Full Report

Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau has a rare combination of length and athleticism for the position at the NFL level. Rousseau is built more along the lines of an NBA player than a classic NFL defensive end. He is very long-limbed and, while not small, appears almost lanky despite his 266 pounds of bodyweight.

Rousseau typically aligned on the offensive right (defensive left), and played out of both a two and three-point stance. He was also asked to play inside on occasion, at times lining up as a nose tackle in certain personnel packages.

Rousseau does a good job of settling into his stance and playing with solid leverage despite his considerable height and leg length. He occasionally pops up off the snap and plays with high pad level, but generally does a good job of keeping his hips and pads low for such a high-cut player. Rousseau shows a good ability to time the snap and is rarely (if ever) tardy off the line.

His game is built around using his length to his advantage. Rousseau routinely gets his hands on blockers first, extending his arms to prevent offensive linemen from latching on. When he is successful at keeping linemen from engaging, he is able to shed blocks and accelerate into the backfield. He’s generally accurate with his hands and works to gain the blockers’ chest plate for inside leverage.

Rousseau shows good competitive toughness, routinely working through and making plays off blockers, as well as pursuing plays through the whistle.

Rousseau still needs significant development in the technical side of his game. He relies heavily on using his length to beat blockers as a power rusher, and lacks a dependable countermove. He also struggles to take on pulling blockers, often meeting them with his shoulder and being taken out of the play. Likewise, he doesn’t use his length to help deal with cut blocks. Rousseau also has an unusual acceleration curve. He shows good initial quickness reacting to the snap, but his first step is somewhat slow. However, he is able to gain significant ground into the backfield with his second and third steps. Likewise, his height and build appear to limit his ability to bend the edge, making him more successful on significantly wide alignments or inside moves.

He could also stand to further fill out his lanky frame, allowing him to play with more explosiveness and violence.

Overall Grade: 8.5 - This prospect has intriguing athletic traits and good competitive toughness, but needs significant development to unlock his full potential.

Projection

Rousseau projects as an eventual starting EDGE or defensive end at the NFL level.

He has rare length and a deceptive athleticism which allows him to be a consistent threat off the edge. Rousseau was used in a variety of roles by the Miami defense, lining up on both the left and right sides as well as on the interior. He was also asked to line up as a nose tackle when Miami used a dime package with three down linemen.

Rousseau has a merely average first step, but long strides give him impressive acceleration on his second and third steps. Despite his lanky build, Rousseau is almost exclusively a power player, relying on his length to keep blockers from engaging. The flip side of that is that his hand usage is very raw and he doesn’t have an answer when blockers are able to defeat his length. Improved hand usage will help him take on pulling blockers and cut blocks, which can usually take him out of the play.

Rousseau generally plays with surprisingly good leverage and pad level for such a tall, long player. While he can occasionally have his hips and pads rise off the snap, he usually does a good job of keeping his pads down and routinely looks to gain inside leverage to control blockers. But while he generally has good leverage, he doesn’t show great bend around the edge. Most of Rousseau’s production has come off of inside moves, where he is too quick and long for interior linemen. Improved hand usage should also help with his production on outside rushes, though he might need to be schemed into wider alignments against NFL tackles.

He can occasionally lose track of the ball when the offense is using a high degree of misdirection but processes and reacts to information quickly on a down-to-down basis. He also plays with good competitive toughness, frequently fighting through — and making plays off of — blockers, as well as pursuing plays across the field.

All told, Rousseau is still a big puppy of a player at just 20 years old. He has enough potential to be drafted highly, but the team that selects him will need a clear plan of development and patience. He should be reasonably productive early in his career, but won’t reach that potential without further physical and technique development.