NFL Draft 2021: Mock Predictions for Gregory Rousseau, Top Defensive Prospects

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 15, 2020

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2019, file photo, Miami defensive lineman Gregory Rousseau (15) celebrates a turnover and wears the turnover chain during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Central Michigan, in Miami Gardens, Fla. Rousseau was selected to The Associated Press All-Atlantic Coast Conference football team, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

The past two NFL drafts have opened the same way: quarterback first, quarterback-rusher second.

That's not how our early 2021 draft board breaks, but it does start with a passer and features a potentially elite pass-rusher in the top five.

We'll lay out our mock before spotlighting the top three defenders on our board.


2021 NFL Mock Draft

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

2. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

3. Washington Redskins: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU

4. Carolina Panthers: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

5. Miami Dolphins: Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami

6. New York Giants: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson

7. New York Jets: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

8. Detroit Lions: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

9. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

10. Chicago Bears: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

11. Atlanta Falcons: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama

12. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

13. Denver Broncos: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

14. Cleveland Browns: Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State

15. Las Vegas Raiders: Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia

16. Los Angeles Chargers: Walker Little, OT, Stanford

17. Tennessee Titans: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

18. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Rams): Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

19. Minnesota Vikings: Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, S, TCU

20. Seattle Seahawks: Trey Smith, G, Tennessee

21. Pittsburgh Steelers: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State

22. Green Bay Packers: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

23. Buffalo Bills: Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue

24. Philadelphia Eagles: JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU

25. Indianapolis Colts: Carlos Basham Jr., Edge, Wake Forest

26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Chuba Hubbard, RB, Oklahoma State

27. New England Patriots: Xavier Thomas, Edge, Clemson

28. Dallas Cowboys: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

29. New Orleans Saints: Brock Purdy, QB, Iowa State

30. Baltimore Ravens: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State

31. San Francisco 49ers: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State


Top Defensive Prospects

Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami

Edge-rushers can pop for posting silly statistics or flashing great physical gifts. Elite edge-rushers offer both. Rousseau looks like he's in that tier.

"Rousseau's 15.5 sacks last season is the kind of production you love to see, especially when coupled with a 6'7", 253-pound frame that has quickness and length but is still getting stronger," B/R's Matt Miller wrote. "The Miami Hurricanes have a special one in Rousseau, who will be tasked with following up his breakout campaign with a solid 2020 season. If he can do so, he's a lock to go in the top 15."

If our mock projection proves accurate, Rousseau won't even have to wait that long.

Only Chase Young, this year's No. 2 pick, topped Rousseau in sacks last season. If the long, quick defender ascends to the No. 1 spot in 2020, the combination of his talent and the league's valuation of his position could get him inside the top five.


Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Patrick Surtain II's father made three Pro Bowl trips over his 11 NFL seasons. The younger Surtain also appears ticketed for NFL stardom.

The 6'2", 203-pounder has more size than his father but the same ability to blanket his matchup. He reminds more than a few evaluators of former Alabama cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who was the 16th overall pick in 2017.

Miller made that comparison while calling Surtain "the best" draft-eligible cornerback evaluated last season and "the early favorite to be CB1."

Through two seasons with the Crimson Tide, Surtain has 15 pass breakups, four forced fumbles and three interceptions.


Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

The question with Parsons isn't whether he's the best linebacker in this class—he clearly is—it's what the league thinks of that distinction. The title doesn't always correspond to a top-10 overall ranking, but he might be the exception.

The 6'3", 245-pounder boasts a dizzying array of athleticism and activity. He flies all around the field and last season tallied 109 tackles, five sacks, five pass breakups, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

"He has rare physical talent, though he's not yet a fully formed defender," ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. wrote. "He plays linebacker for the Nittany Lions, but he played defensive end in high school and could end up as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense at the next level. Parsons had five sacks last season, but he could get to double digits in 2020. He's a difference-maker."

Parsons' draft range might come down to team need, as he could be the kind of prospect who lands higher on big boards than he does in mock drafts. But his talent level is tremendous, and that might be enough to convince a front office he's worthy of a top-10 pick.