2021 NFL draft: Position switch could help Miami's Greg Rousseau emerge

Eric Edholm
·7-min read

Leading up to the 2021 NFL draft, which starts April 29, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five for Nos. 100-51, followed by more in-depth reports on our top 50 players, with help from our scouting assistant, Liam Blutman. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Other prospect rankings: Nos. 100-96 | 95-91 | 90-86 | 85-81 | 80-76 | 75-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. OT Liam Eichenberg | 49. WR Terrace Marshall Jr. | 48. LB Chazz Surratt | 47. EDGE Joe Tryon | 46. OT-OG Alex Leatherwood | 45. CB Asante Samuel Jr. | 44. DL Levi Onwuzurike | 43. LB Jabril Cox | 42. DT Daviyon Nixon | 41. EDGE Ronnie Perkins | 40. LB Nick Bolton | 39. CB Ifeatu Melifonwu | 38. WR Elijah Moore | 37. OT Jalen Mayfield | 36. EDGE Carlos Basham Jr. | 35. CB Elijah Molden | 34. RB Travis Etienne | 33. WR Kadarius Toney | 32. EDGE Jayson Oweh | 31. LB Zaven Collins | 30. DT Christian Barmore | 29. QB Mac Jones | 28. CB Caleb Farley | 27. RB Javonte Williams | 26. C-OG Landon Dickerson | 25. S Trevon Moehrig | 24. CB Greg Newsome II | 23. WR Rashod Bateman | 22. EDGE Greg Rousseau | 21. OT Christian Darrisaw | 20. RB Najee Harris | 19. LB-S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah | 18. EDGE Jaelan Phillips | 17. OT Teven Jenkins | 16. EDGE Kwity Paye | 15. CB Jaycee Horn | 14. OT-OG Rashawn Slater | 13. OG-OT Alijah Vera-Tucker | 12. WR DeVonta Smith | 11. EDGE Azeez Ojulari | 10. CB Patrick Surtain II | 9. OT Penei Sewell | 8. QB Zach Wilson | 7. LB Micah Parsons | 6. QB Trey Lance | 5. WR Jaylen Waddle | 4. QB Justin Fields | 3. WR Ja'Marr Chase | 2. TE Kyle Pitts | 1. QB Trevor Lawrence

Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Here's how we use our prospect grades for the 2021 NFL draft. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

22. Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau

6-foot-7, 266 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.05 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Boom-or-bust prospect with stunning tools but a functional lack of tape, experience

Games watched: Florida (2019), Virginia (2019), Georgia Tech (2019), Pitt (2019), Louisiana Tech (2019)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit, Rousseau made the massive switch from high school receiver/safety/linebacker to defensive lineman with the Hurricanes. He played in two games in 2018, making five tackles, before suffering a broken ankle and taking a medical redshirt. In 2019, Rousseau shocked the college football world with 51 tackles (four for losses), 15.5 sacks (second nationally to only Chase Young), two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one batted pass in 13 games (eight starts). He was named first-team All-ACC and ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year. Rousseau opted out of the 2020 college season and declared early for the 2021 NFL draft.

Upside: Jumps off the screen with his combination of size and athletic traits. Rare, exceptional length — stunning wingspan (83 1/4 inches), great arm length (34 3/8 inches) and some of the biggest hands (11 1/8 inches) you’ll ever seen on a football field.

Ran well at his pro day — a 4.67 40-yard dash with an eye-opening 1.57-second 10-yard split (faster than LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase). Bench-press total (21) isn’t quite as eye-popping, but it works for a player with 34-plus-inch arms.

One-year production was tremendous. Logged 15.5 sacks on a mere 280 pass-rush snaps — an insane disruption rate. It’s even wilder that he didn’t become a starter until the sixth game of the season and only averaged a shade more than 40 snaps per game.

Athletic enough that he was asked to play virtually every technique on the defensive line (including a ton of snaps at nose tackle), stand up as an edge rusher and also drop off occasionally into coverage. Also ran down punts in coverage extensively — made the opening special-teams tackle in bowl vs. Louisiana Tech.

Tremendous rush when lined up inside, and flashes occasionally great hand use. Uses a rip move and is too fast for guards to handle. Outstanding subpackage rush potential as a big interior defender on passing downs. Has the length to be a shot blocker in time.

Miami's Gregory Rousseau was a freshman star in 2019, but how quickly will he adjust to the NFL? (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Miami's Gregory Rousseau was a freshman star in 2019, but how quickly will he adjust to the NFL? (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Uses his length to bull rush opponents and get them on their heels. Will cross blockers’ faces. Counters back inside well after running the arc — can change his rush course well. Fast finisher. Spent time with noted pass-rush guru Chuck Smith during opt-out season.

Natural run-stopping potential. Protects his middle well from blockers. Presses out shorter-armed blockers and sheds naturally. Will flatten down the line and earn backside TFLs as the unblocked man.

Comes from humble roots but with a strong, supporting family. Worker who has some pride in his craft. Plays hard most of the time. Exciting, ascending talent to mold.

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Downside: One of the least-experienced prospects in this entire class — 546 college snaps. One-year producer who opted out.

Has plenty to learn about defending the run and setting harder edges. Still adjusting to the trench warfare life. Hands could use more refinement but also more pop.

Could add a lot more strength — played closer to the 250-pound range in 2019. Can get torqued by rushers when he gets too high. Pad level is a consistent issue. You’d expect more speed to power in his rushes. Dominated some tight ends, but a few seemed to do just fine blocking him one-on-one. Learning how to anchor. Legs appear a bit thin and undeveloped.

Only average testing numbers — 30-inch vertical jump, 117-inch broad jump and a 7.50-second 3-cone drill. Some offensive guards topped those numbers. So-so get-off quickness. Average bend. Can get a little off kilter — finds himself on the ground a bit.

Not really an edge rusher. Did plenty of it but appeared to have more pass-rush success working inside the tackle. Lacks ideal twitch on the corner. He’ll need to bulk up if he wants to play any more snaps at nose tackle, which he did a fair bit.

Best-suited destination: The team that takes a chance on Rousseau almost must be prepared for him to serve a redshirt-type of season in 2021, given his lack of experience and refinement as a pass rusher. Rousseau’s athleticism can be put to work early, but expecting anything more than a developmental season in Year 1 could be foolhardy.

Although he might not be instant coffee, Rousseau reads as a rare athlete who could develop into something special. Some teams treat this as a developmental league; others, sadly, do not.

His landing spot is crucial for his cultivation. We could see him being a base 4-3 EDGE or maybe a 3-4 OLB (a la Julius Peppers in Green Bay), but his best work might end up coming inside as a 3 or 5-technique DL if Rousseau can add 20 to 30 pounds of bulk without losing quickness.

Did you know: As a high school receiver — and a giant one at that — Rousseau chased down a defender following a turnover, running nearly 80 yards and tackling his opponent shy of the goal line despite the player having more than a 10-yard head start toward the end zone.

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Player comp: It’s impossible to come up with a comp for Rousseau given his rare dimensions and lack of football.

Could he become Calais Campbell or DeForest Buckner (who played in the 260s as college freshmen)? Or is Rousseau the next Shawn Oakman or Lynden Trail?

The closest we could arrive at was David Irving, who was 273 at his pro day but played more inside in the NFL in the 290-pound range. That might be Rousseau’s best path to maximizing his talent.

Expected draft range: Second round

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