“A priority for me is that we continue to get more pass-rushers,” Zimmer said in his closing press conference of the season. “So we need people that can rush the quarterback, whether it’s a linebacker, a cornerback or safety you’ve got to have guys that can cover in today’s NFL. So that makes a big difference.”
With little cap space available for the upcoming season, the Vikings will need to continue its rebuild through the draft. Early mock drafts have entertained various scenarios that all start with Minnesota’s No. 14 overall pick.
Mock drafters have used the first-round pick to address quarterback, offensive line or the defensive line, but a strong majority of drafts point Miami edge rusher Gregory Rousseau.
Half of the 12 mock drafts Vikings.com has observed across the league have Minnesota taking Rousseau, while 10 of the 12 have the team addressing the defensive line with its first pick. This would be the first time the Vikings have selected a defensive lineman in the first round since Shariff Floyd in 2013.
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Rousseau Compared to Danielle Hunter
Danielle Hunter has been a terror for opposing offenses as the youngest player to reach 50 career sacks in NFL history. But what if the Vikings could have a second Hunter?
That’s the comparison NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah made in his scouting report of Rousseau.
Here’s Jeremiah’s take on who Rousseau:
We’re all familiar with the phrase “love at first sight.” Well, that’s what happened when I studied my first tape of Gregory Rousseau. He possesses all of the traits and skills I look for in a pass rusher. He jumps off the screen. I’m usually very cautious when I evaluate players over the summer. Not this time. To borrow a line from one of my favorite sports movies, he had me at hello. Here’s my scouting report on the Miami Hurricanes’ redshirt sophomore…
He reminds me of: The player the Vikings’ Danielle Hunter has become at the NFL level. Rousseau is much more polished and productive than Hunter was at LSU. However, Hunter has developed into one of the league’s premier pass rushers since entering the league in 2015. Rousseau has a comparable build/frame and they are similar athletes on the field. Both players annihilate tight ends and have the ability to convert speed to power off the edge. I believe Rousseau has even more upside at the next level. He has the tools to emerge as a perennial All-Pro player.
Rousseau is a Raw Talent the Vikings Can Mold
Standing 6-foot-7, 253 pounds, Rousseau has the prototype frame to be a successful pass-rusher in the league. He’s earned comparisons to Hunter, Myles Garrett, Aldon Smith and Arik Armstead based on his athleticism alone.
But Rousseau is raw at defensive end, playing only two full seasons at the position. He was a wide receiver and safety until his senior year of high school. He played just one season at Miami as a redshirt freshman, tallying 54 tackles (34 solo), 19.5 for loss, 15.5 sacks, one pass defended, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. He opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.
While Rousseau’s inexperience is concerning, Minnesota has been a factory for developing raw talents into elite pass-rushers. Danielle Hunter was a relatively unknown third-round pick. Everson Griffen was a fourth-round pick turned four-time Pro Bowler.
Rousseau is a risky pick, but given his upside coupled with the Vikings’ pedigree for developing pass-rushers, he could be this draft class’s Chase Young.
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Trevor Squire is a Heavy contributor covering the Minnesota Vikings and journalism graduate from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. Connect with him on Twitter @trevordsquire and join our Vikings community at Heavy on Vikings on Facebook.