Gregory Rousseau NFL Draft Profile
At this time one year ago, Miami’s Gregory Rousseau was training with his teammates as he prepared for his redshirt sophomore season. The former high school wide receiver and safety had just completed one of the most successful position changes in college football history a few months prior. Rousseau suffered a season-ending injury a couple of games into his true freshman season and ended up redshirting in 2018. He then had a ridiculous breakout in 2019 in which he totaled 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss that caught the world by storm. He put himself firmly on the NFL’s radar, and he has stayed there despite opting out of the 2020 season. Had that not been the case and had we been able to see him play in 2020, we might be looking at a truly different scenario regarding the 2019 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Edge rusher isn’t a huge need for the Chargers, although it could become one if and when Melvin Ingram leaves in free agency. Given the two outstanding defensive line coaches that Brandon Staley has managed to put in place on his coaching staff (Jay Rodgers and Giff Smith), it would not surprise me if the Chargers ended up choosing Rousseau, or another pass rusher of their choosing, in the coming 2021 draft.
That being said let’s get to Rousseau’s Draft Profile.
Gregory Rousseau NFL Draft Profile
Top Three Player Traits
The first thing you notice about Rousseau when you pop on his tape is his long, and gangly frame. We’ll have to wait and see exactly how long his arms are, but he is listed at 6’7 and will likely have the longest arms of any edge rusher in this class. It’s one thing to have long arms, and it’s another thing to use them – and thankfully Rousseau does. He is still very raw at the position but he uses his arms to his advantage by keeping offensive tackles at bay. He is able to attach to blockers’ bodies and control them with relative ease. His length affords him the opportunity to be an incredibly high-level run defender due to his ability to set the edge, shed blockers, and make up an insane amount of ground in short spurts and catch runners from behind.
Versatility And Mobility
Oftentimes when coaches get their hands on a player like Rousseau who is so late in his development, they will experiment with them and move them all over the field. This can be a bit of a double-edged sword, moving a player around a lot takes valuable and true reps away from him. However, in the case of Rousseau, I think it worked to his advantage. The NFL is always looking for versatile pass rushers who can fill many roles and Rousseau showed that ability in his lone full season of college football.
There were times that Miami would move into a bit of a 3-3-5 defense against high octane offenses, and on these occasions, they would move Rousseau to rush from the interior against a guard or a center. Other times, they would have him line up in a wide nine stance as an outside linebacker and even drop into coverage where he could use his mobility and high school experience as a safety to keep up with opposing tight ends and running backs.
Then, of course, they would use him as a traditional defensive end and rush on the outside against opposing offensive tackles. He was able to excel in any of the roles that the Miami coaching staff would put him in and that should pay dividends for him in the NFL, particularly if he lands with a coach like Brandon Staley who creatively moves his defensive players around all over the field to seek out mismatches.
At the end of the day, effort is king in college football. If you play hard on every play, you will likely make a lot of plays to help your team win games. But when you combine elite physical traits with a high motor, special things will happen. That’s what teams are looking at with Rousseau. He took his incredibly gifted physical ability and combined it with a motor that never stops. He’s not the most efficient pass rusher at this point in his career, but he will work himself into making plays off of sheer heart and will. You can’t teach passion and physical traits, and Rousseau has those in spades.
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Top Three Player Traits To Improve Upon
Diversity As A Pass Rusher
This is a natural result of his inexperience at the position, but when faced against a truly high-level blocker Rousseau would essentially get erased from the game. If he is unable to win with those physical traits, he tends to get stuck. Now, as I said, he will continue to fight and work himself into making plays, but once he gets into the league he will need to develop a true pass rush arsenal. I will never hold opting out against anyone, but this is an area that would be refined at a much higher level had he been able to play in his redshirt sophomore season.
This is another area that should improve with more experience, but Rousseau is rather easily taken out of plays just because he’s simply not as strong as those players who are blocking him. His length does afford him some wiggle room, but he will have to continue to work to fill out his frame at the next level. At times he looks like he gets frustrated when an opposing tackle gets a firm grip on him. As I said, he’s a gangly and wiry player right now but that should change with NFL coaching and training.
Rousseau plays hard, but he doesn’t always play aggressively. Most of the time he wants to use his length to read and react to what is happening, instead of making things happen on his own. When you think of a high-level edge rusher, be it Joey Bosa, Von Miller, Chandler Jones, one of the Watt brothers, or whoever, they are often the tone setters of their team. Ingram is another example of this.
You have to have that next gear to be an elite pass rusher in the NFL, and Rousseau doesn’t get there as often as one would like. The good news is that he does have the ability to get there, and should be able to get there more often with more development. He had stretches of play where he was the most dominant player on the field, particularly against Florida State and Pittsburgh, we just would have liked to see it happen more consistently.
Overall, Rousseau is a very intriguing edge rusher prospect. There is obviously a lot of uncertainty around him due to the lack of viable game tape. However, what we do have shows glimpses of the type of potential that defensive coaches salivate over. The only player to have more sacks in 2019 was Heisman finalist Chase Young. It’s difficult to really quantify just how rare of a season he had as a redshirt freshman and if he had played in 2020 it’s likely that we would be looking at a bonafide top-five pick, instead of someone who is consistently being mocked in the late teens.
At their peaks, the Chargers have always had two high-level pass rushers, most notably the duos of Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips, and most recently with Ingram and Bosa. So while they do have more pressing needs, namely the offensive line and secondary, I have to believe the idea of pairing this kind of versatile and raw prospect with Bosa could be very enticing for Staley and company.