Interior pass-rushes have become critical to the defensive success of any franchise, and this 2021 NFL Draft prospect out of Miami could be the next big hit.
The top ten of the 2021 NFL Draft class is still nearly impossible to predict at this point, but current presumptions point to a variety of positional talent including two contrasting quarterbacks, two big school corners, a physically dominant lineman on each side, two athletic wide receivers and finally, two young edge rushers. With such diversity in talent, it will be difficult for any single prospect to rise above in the 2021 NFL Draft.
In only his redshirt freshman season (suffered season-ending ankle injury two games into the 2018 season), Gregory Rousseau managed to collect 15.5 sacks in 13 games and fell only one sack short of eventual second overall pick and Redskin’s defensive cornerstone Chase Young. The lack of development from an athletically dominant high school athlete is noticeable, but that dominance is still carrying through to the collegiate level.
A 6-foot-6, 260-pound frame gives Rousseau a balanced build to function as both a 3-4 and 4-3 edge, even flexing out into the flats and covering running backs in space. Athletes are only becoming more and more versatile with the labels of ‘positions’ being thrown to the wayside.
From the NFL to the NBA to the PGA, the more unique advantageous qualities you have, the more successful you can be. The most recent of these phenoms was Clemson ‘linebacker’ Isaiah Simmons, who will be finding himself slotted as the heir to Patrick Peterson.
Rousseau is a raw athlete on the defensive line currently, but as long as he is able to develop an NFL-ready pass-rush arsenal he will be able to put up an effort against veteran offensive tackles. Rousseau already has a couple of reliable rudimentary moves in his repertoire, including strong swipe and rip moves that take advantage of his physicality.
The most effective of his moves though is a downhill-counter move in which he attempts to beat a guard to his outside hip (aka the edge) and stops on a dime to take hold of and chuck the guard aside.
You may wonder why I specifically pointed out that Rousseau’s downhill-counter move is exclusive to interior linemen. That is because Rousseau doesn’t have the elite first-step to beat offensive tackles to the edge. With more ground to cover and typically more length than their interior teammates, tackles can stay on top of Rousseau’s speed rushes and get inside his long reach.
Pure athletes coming from the high school ranks are gifts to college football programs because a coaching staff can mold their development to fit their program and eventually impress as prospects. Rousseau is a defensive line talent who could take one of two routes in his development into an NFL prospect. With his frame and raw strength, Rousseau has two realistic options to the NFL:
- Put on more weight and become either a 3-4 defensive end or 3-technique defensive tackle
- Focus on improving first-step to compete with offensive tackle as a 4-3 edge
As mentioned, Rousseau has up to three years to improve and find his niche as a powerful defensive lineman. That being said, there have been many players who decide to take that development to the NFL and been earmarked as ‘projects’ for potential teams. This player comparison is based on the physical gifts and potential development of Rousseau.
Player Comparison: Arik Armstead
A key piece in the NFC championship-winning defensive line of the San Francisco Niners, Armstead uses a similarly long frame to overwhelm interior linemen in pass-protection. Their shared focal point of overwhelming strength combined with their frames allows them to control the chest of their opposition and drives them into their own backfield.
Armstead has been able to develop a collection of pass-rush moves based on his physical strength, and the same door is open for Rousseau.