If the Buffalo Bills hope to make it to the Super Bowl in 2021, a large part of their hopes rest on seeing the pass rush improve beyond last season’s efforts. The Bills won’t make it to the championship if Patrick Mahomes can sit back in the pocket and pick apart Buffalo’s secondary. Key to their improvement will be Greg “Groot” Rousseau, the youngest player on the team. Rousseau, Buffalo’s newest first-round pick, nestles into seventh place on our “Top 10 25-and-under” list between the successful professionals above him and the players with more ups and downs below him.
Number 7: DE Greg Rousseau (turned 21 on April 5)
Out of all of the Bills’ rookies, he may be the most unproven. Remember, he hasn’t played in a game of football since the 2019 season. Yet this former high school wide receiver was still the second-leading sack artist in the nation in 2019 as a defensive end.
You can’t coach size, and Rousseau has that in spades. At 6’7” and 266 lbs, he looks like he could manage to pack on 15 or 20 more pounds and play like Calais Campbell. He already makes smart use of his length, holding players at arm’s reach so he can disengage and tackle the carrier out of the pocket. He has excellent flexibility and fluidity, so even though he isn’t the most explosive player, he can hold his ground in unfavorable situations and make a play.
Were Rousseau’s pre-draft workouts disappointing? Yes. A 30” vertical and a 7.5-second three-cone drill are bad measurements of explosiveness and agility. But it’s hard to hold those against him when he didn’t even play in the 2020 season, and his own playing style wasn’t predicated on his first step or ability to turn the corner.
It may take some time before Rousseau develops into a starter, but he’s the youngest man on this list, so he’ll have several years to make it count. He’ll also spend his career compared against a slew of players in a similar draft situation. That includes Jaelan Phillips, his former “college teammate” (both played at Miami, but in different years). It also includes Payton Turner, Odafe (Jayson) Oweh, and Joe Tryon, who all were chosen between 28th and 32nd overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Here’s hoping Rousseau, the 30th overall pick, is the best of the bunch.