Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2021 Prospect Primer: EDGE Gregory Rousseau

Another Miami edge rusher is an intriguing defensive prospect in this year’s draft that’s thought to be first-round talent.

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Name: Gregory Rousseau

Position: EDGE

School: Miami

Height: 6-7

Weight: 265

NFL Grade: 6.39 (will be starter within first two seasons)

Stats: I don't know what's in the water down in Coral Gables, but oversized edge rushers have been at the eye of the Hurricanes these past couple seasons. We already took a look at Jaelan Phillips, who impressed in his lone year for Miami in 2020 but his teammate, the six-foot-seven Rousseau, is just as, if not even more impressive on size alone.

Where Phillips shined last year, Rousseau opted out of the uncertain season, but not before making his mark on the program and in the stat column in 2019. He was named the 2019 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, First-Team All-ACC, Second-Team All American from FWAA and earned Freshman All-America honors from multiple outlets after a breakout first season as a starter.

Rousseau played in just two games as a true freshman in 2018 before his season was cut short due to an ankle injury. When he returned in 2019, he saw action in all 13 games for the Hurricanes and started seven of them. In that span he led the ACC with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. His sack total tied the highest single-season mark in Miami history and was second in the country behind only 2020's second-overall pick Chase Young out of Ohio State. Rousseau also amassed 54 total tackles, 34 of which were solo while also forcing two fumbles and recovering one. His best game of the season came against in-state rival Florida State, where he had eight tackles and 4.0 sacks against the Seminoles.

Comments: Rousseau's size might suit him more for a 4-3 scheme as a defensive end, according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. But Rousseau lined up both inside and outside for the Hurricanes, which makes me think of another U product in Calais Campbell, who was 6-8, 253 coming out of Miami and played that 4-3 defensive end role to near perfection for the majority of his career before now moving more inside in the Ravens' 3-4 scheme, though he's still classified as a defensive end. Rousseau has the long body and reach that has helped him become as versatile a player as any.

"Long-limbed, even-front end with a projectable frame but a concerning lack of functional edge experience," writes Zierlein. "Much of his sack production came via athletic mismatches against interior blockers when reduced inside. He lacks prototypical get-off and needs more violence and pop in his hands, but his length, pursuit agility and wide-open throttle really stand out on tape. He doesn't come off as unwilling at the point of attack. Expect noticeable improvement as a run defender once he adds play strength and learns to bend and anchor more effectively. The checked boxes are a bit uneven, but that appears to be more a reflection of a lack of film rather than projectable talent. He carries a bit of a boom/bust profile, but also has the makings of a player who can become a quality 4-3 end within his first three seasons."

Apply Rousseau to the Bucs and you have a pretty easy comp in Will Gholston actually, who plays at around 281 and has finally found his niche in the Bucs' aggressive defense. Zierlein points out that most of Rousseau's sacks came against interior blockers – which is something the Bucs improved upon in 2020 but would like to continue. That interior pressure helped inside linebacker Devin White to 9.0 sacks in the 2020 regular season and allows the Bucs more creative blitz packages, for instance. So, while Rousseau is being classified as an edge rusher that could be better fit in a 4-3 scheme, I wouldn't count out his value in a 3-4 like the Bucs, either.

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