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

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 22, 2020

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, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

For teams in need of a franchise quarterback or requiring offensive help, the 2021 NFL draft should have plenty to offer.

Between signal-callers such as Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, linemen like Penei Sewell and receivers like Ja'Marr Chase, there will be plenty of top targets for offensive-needy teams.

But what about teams that need to build up the other side of the ball? Well, they're probably going to be in luck, too. While defenders aren't likely to get as much attention heading into the 2020 season as the offensive prospects, some elite options are scheduled to be draft-eligible.

Here, we'll look at the best defensive prospects likely to be available in next year's draft. First, though, an updated Round 1 mock.


2021 NFL Mock Draft

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

2. Washington Redskins: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

3. Carolina Panthers: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

4. Cincinnati Bengals: Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami

5. Miami Dolphins: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU 

6. New York Jets: Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State

7. Detroit Lions: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

8. Arizona Cardinals: Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas

9. Atlanta Falcons: Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama

10. Miami Dolphins (from Houston): Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

11. Denver Broncos: Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

12. New York Giants: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

13. Chicago Bears: Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson

14. Los Angeles Chargers: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State

15. Cleveland Browns: Tyler Shelvin, DL, LSU

16. Jacksonville Jaguars (from L.A. Rams): Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Richard LeCounte, S, Georgia

18. Tennessee Titans: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota

19. Pittsburgh Steelers: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson

20. Minnesota Vikings: Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford

21. New England Patriots: Jay Tufele, DT, USC 

22. Indianapolis Colts: JaCoby Stevens, S, LSU

23. Buffalo Bills: Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame

24. Philadelphia Eagles: LaBryan Ray, DL, Alabama

25. Green Bay Packers: Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU

26. Seattle Seahawks: Wyatt Davis, OL, Ohio State

27. Dallas Cowboys: Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State

28. New Orleans Saints: Jamie Newman, QB, Georgia

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

30. Baltimore Ravens: Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan

31. San Francisco 49ers: Creed Humphrey, IOL, Oklahoma

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Caden Sterns, S, Texas


Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami

While quarterbacks have gone No. 1 overall in each of the past two drafts, defenders have gone second in each of them. That trend could continue in 2021 if Miami's Gregory Rousseau has another strong season.

A one-year wonder thus far, he only appeared in two games as a true freshman. He then exploded onto the scene in 2019, racking up 15.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss and 54 tackles in 13 games.

From a production standpoint, Rousseau appears to be a worthy successor to pass-rushers such as Nick Bosa and Chase Young atop of draft boards. The caveat here is that the Miami Hurricanes player will need to prove last year wasn't a fluke.

"We want to see a jump up in production. For some of these guys, put [together] two great years back-to-back. That's what we're looking for," ESPN's Mel Kiper said (h/t Robbie Weinstein of 247Sports).

If Rousseau remains healthy and produces another double-digit-sack season, he may cement his status as the first defender off the board.


Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State

TALLAHASSEE, FL - OCTOBER 26: Defensive Tackle Marvin Wilson #21 of the Florida State Seminoles leaves the field after the game against the Syracuse Orange at Doak Campbell Stadium on Bobby Bowden Field on October 26, 2019 in Tallahassee, Florida. The Sem
Don Juan Moore/Getty Images

Edge-rushers are always popular on draft weekend. However, teams also love interior defensive lineman who can generate pressure, which is why the Carolina Panthers took Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown seventh overall in April.

Though he may not be the next Aaron Donald that teams are searching for, Florida State's Marvin Wilson is a top prospect in the Derrick Brown mold. In fact, he may be an even more enticing prospect than Brown come draft time.

"I think he can be better than Derrick Brown, a guy that went in the top 10 this past year," Pro Football Focus' Austin Gayle said on Twitter.

Listed at 6'5" and 310 pounds, the 21-year-old has the size of a traditional interior NFL defender. However, he's a fluid player who will do far more than occupying blocks and standing up ball-carriers.

Wilson can attack the backfield, as evidenced by his 5.0 sacks and 8.5 tackles for a loss in nine games last season.


Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama

Guys who can get after the quarterback are always coveted. So, too, are defenders who can limit opposing No. 1 receivers. Just consider that former Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah went third overall this past year, and a corner has gone inside the top five in two of the past three years.

While we might not see a corner go in the top five next year, Alabama's Patrick Surtain II could be a candidate to wind up in the top 10. Listed at 6'2" and 203 pounds, he has the size NFL coaches want on the perimeter. He also has the production of a future NFL cover corner. In 2019, he amassed 42 tackles, eight passes defended and two interceptions.

He has also emerged as a leader for the Alabama defense, which isn't going to go unnoticed by potential employers.

"He's one of the leaders on the defense now. He's the leader in the secondary," Surtain's father and former NFL Pro Bowler, Patrick Surtain said, per Charlie Potter of 247Sports. "I know they've been having chats with the other players, and he's been actually leading the meetings, so that's been good."

Surtain may get some early attention because of his name, but he's likely to be a high draft pick because of his own potential.