Your tape is your calling card when it comes to the NFL draft and its finite process of evaluating talent. For Gregory Rousseau, one of the more physically imposing athletes of the 2020 class, it couldn’t be more true.
If Thursday afternoon’s Pro Day was the first time laying eyes on the 6-foot-7 Rousseau, you’d think he was a five-year NFL vet with thousands of professional snaps under his belt. He jumps off the screen physically.
However, for league evaluators, taking off the blinders to his frame reveal one of the more underdeveloped, raw prospects of the class. Just two seasons ago, Rousseau went neck and neck with 2020 No. 2 overall selection Chase Young for the national lead in sacks. Rousseau dazzled in his sophomore season, totaling 15.5 with two forced fumbles for the Hurricanes.
Monday, however, left much to be desired. Questions have surrounded Rousseau since his decision to opt out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns. Soon to be just 21 years old, a lack of maturity, fluidity, and functional flexibility as a pure athlete has become the overpressing concern surrounding the Coconut Creek, Florida native. Behind the infectious smile and exuberant personality lies an athlete of question, with his future as a first-round NFL draft prospect becoming increasingly precarious as Pro Days commence around the country.
On the outside, Rousseau offers everything you look for off the edge. He’s a hoss on the outside with growing strength and power that he often translates into speed to blow by opposing tackles. He offers nice versatility where, according to Rousseau, NFL teams have discussed using him “anywhere along the line.”
Time within an NFL facility will do Rousseau well, as his aforementioned skill set will find him on the gridiron come Week 1. Where exactly he lines up remains a question Rousseau says he can’t answer just yet, but arguably the top edge prospect in the class has his sights set on “producing,” wherever that may be.
“I feel I best fit on the edge, I’m natural there,” Rousseau said. “But, I can go down to three (technique) or also move to outside linebacker and do some [coverage] drops, get out in space, do some things like that. I feel like I have a lot of versatility and I’ll be a great asset to whichever team believes in me and picks me up.”
Usually, being this deep in the process doesn’t allow for much maneuvering of a prospect’s profile. However, with the aforementioned missed campaign, Rousseau has left much to prove with no tape to offer in more than a full calendar year.
However, his teammate, Jaelan Phillips, used Rousseau’s absence to his advantage during the 2020 campaign and now has provided one of the more exponential rises among draft boards across the league since the conclusion of the collegiate season.
Long story short, it’s really a give and take, “what have you done for me lately,” league. For Rousseau… it hasn’t been much.
Monday was a disappointing afternoon for Rousseau, who ran 4.71/4.69 in the 40 while recording just 21 reps on the bench at 266 pounds. Additionally, his 30-inch vert places him in the 16th percentile of all defensive ends since the turn of the century. For context, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick recorded a 30.5-inch vert at his Pro Day. Yeah… it wasn’t good.
It goes without saying that a workout in a t-shirt and shorts doesn’t trump a year’s worth of tape, especially one including 15.5 sacks of havoc-wreaking talent off the edge, but this is different; Monday was different.
Rousseau, a prospect with rave reviews just two years ago, now has left MUCH to be desired and unfavorable draft comps are popping up. It’s a grave reality of the draft process, but for Rousseau, only time will tell if he’s able to silence the noise and work back to a once-dominant form on the gridiron come fall.