The Minnesota Vikings are looking to erase their middle-of-the-pack status in the NFC. To do so, they'll need to continue to build on the defensive side of the ball, as the offense functions just fine. Since the back half of their defensive starters are solid, they need to focus on their defensive line first. They could certainly use some more talent at the EDGE and interior line spots. So, why not draft a player who had some of the best numbers in 2019 before opting out the 2020 season? Vikings, you are officially on the clock!
With the 14th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, I predict Miami EDGE Gregory Rousseau going to the Vikings. Here's why.
Rousseau is truly built for being around the football all the time. He is a long and rangy player who can make plenty of reach tackles to slow up plays. Rousseau is exceptional at battling with his hands due to playing wide receiver during his younger years. He never stops grinding when the ball is still near the backfield, which exemplifies the high-motor mentality he plays with.
Even if Rousseau gets slowed down at the start of a play, he has the athleticism to make the necessary adjustments and chase down the play. His work on the interior of the defensive line is respectable for his smaller size, but he doesn't let that limit his abilities to just the inside. Rousseau has a burst that helps his close-out speed when chasing down a sack. All of the aforementioned factors help him escape blocks and even re-establish positioning when needed.
Experience is a concern regarding Rousseau given his small sample size of work, which includes just one full season and a very small chunk of action in another at Miami. Add his pro day numbers to that equation and he has fallen on draft boards as of late. Furthermore, Rousseau's stats and film come primarily from playing on the interior of the defensive line. In the NFL, that might be an issue due to his size of only 266 lbs, which is a little bit small when it comes to working the inside of the line.
His speed may scare teams away from playing him at the EDGE position consistently, but he does tout an adequate burst to play in that spot after some further fine-tuning. Overall, Getting into the pros will help Rousseau out, and he should be able to get into the proper shape for whatever style of play the Vikings are looking for.
Recording 15.5 sacks in one season is no joke, even if that was his only major season in college. Whichever team selects him will need to help him find the right position on the field and get him into shape for the NFL. All the aforementioned concerns aside, Rousseau gets into the backfield by any means and there is no stopping him. This year's class of EDGE rushers might be weaker compared to other seasons, but there is still plenty of raw talent available at the position. What separates Rousseau from the rest of the pack is his incredibly impressive statistical production, sample size be damned.