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2021 NFL Draft Scouting Spotlight: Miami DE Gregory Rousseau

A one-year wonder defensive end with some unanswered questions.

With the 2021 NFL Draft approaching, the Buffalo Bills are hard at work picking out rookie prospects. Their goal is the Super Bowl, and after a low-key free-agent period, the draft is their last major opportunity to reinforce the roster for a championship run.

The Bills only managed 11.5 sacks, total, among their group of edge defenders in 2020. The underwhelming group, featuring aging veterans, needs an upgrade, and that might come in the form of Gregory Rousseau. The defensive end from Miami burst onto the scene as a second-team All-American in 2019. But hopes for another great season were dashed when the COVID-19 pandemic led Rousseau to opt out of the college football season. Now, Rousseau is a major mystery, and that could lead him to be available when the Bills pick 30th overall.


Gregory Rousseau (Miami) Scouting Report

Measurables: 6’7” 266 lbs
2020 stats: Opted out of the 2020 season
2019 stats: 54 total tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 15.5 sacks, two forced fumbles
Year: Redshirt Sophomore
Pro day testing: 4.68 40-yard dash, 30” vertical jump, 115” broad jump, 7.50 three-cone drill, 4.53 short shuttle, 21 bench press reps

Summary

Gregory Rousseau is a massive edge rusher who nearly led the nation in sacks during his only significant college football season. With his length, strength, and burst, Rousseau showed that he can blow up plays behind the line of scrimmage as a defensive end or tackle. Having missed the 2020 season, there are questions about how much of Rousseau’s production was built with his innate talent and athleticism as opposed to fortunate circumstances and weak opponents.

Though his 2018 college debut ended after only two games with a fractured ankle, Rousseau came back with a vengeance in his redshirt freshman season. He was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and a first-team All-Conference selection, racking up 15.5 sacks (which ranked second in the FBS). Rousseau opted out of the 2020 season, so teams need to decide if this one-year wonder will be just as potent in the NFL.

Strengths

  • Ideal length and bulk for an NFL defensive end
  • Has enough burst and length to quickly gain ground on the pocket
  • Flexible enough to bend the edge and close onto the pocket on an outside rush
  • Productive defensive weapon who consistently drew double- and triple-teams
  • Shows a swim move and swipe move that both have pro potential
  • Experience (and effectiveness) lining up as a defensive tackle
  • High motor player who continues pursuit even when the play goes away from him

Weaknesses

  • Sometimes a slow mover out of the gate
  • Punch timing and placement is inconsistent, leading to reps where his gap is controlled by the offense
  • Often lacks a proactive pass rush plan
  • Much of his disruption came from the interior rather than the edge
  • Athletic testing numbers were inconsistent (great 40-yard dash, disappointing three-cone drill)
  • Very little playing experience, especially at defensive end (WR and S in high school)

Draft projection: Late first round - early second round


Why he fits the Bills

The Bills definitely need new options at edge rusher. Jerry Hughes is 33 and Mario Addison is 34, and both players will be free agents after this season. A.J. Epenesa might be one piece of the puzzle, and Efe Obada looks like a good free-agent signing, but the pass rush could improve further. Rousseau has some tantalizing traits, having remarkable size and a season that put him near Chase Young’s level of production. But he only had that one season, and his uneven athletic testing numbers will push him down the board on draft night.

That can work for the Bills, though, who pick 30th overall. They have the right environment to coach up a project defensive end, and Rousseau certainly fits the size they usually seek at the position. He also works as a defensive end who can flex into the interior, something they sought with Obada as well as former Bills end Shaq Lawson. If he dedicates himself in practice, Rousseau could be a starter by year two and make the Bills look pretty smart for picking him where they did.