Throughout the draft process, atop the leader board at the defensive end position has been Miami’s two defensive ends. Depending on the publication either one could be listed as the number one player at the position. Nonetheless, the Miami Hurricanes saw both Greg Rousseau and Jaelan Phillips in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Miami becomes the first school with multiple defensive ends selected in the first round since 2006. Coincidentally, Manny Diaz and former defensive line coach Todd Stroud were members of that North Carolina State defensive staff.
Miami Hurricanes’ Edge Rushers Drafted in 2021 NFL Draft
It would be the Hurricanes’ belief in both players that would help them achieve their ultimate goal of reaching this milestone. For Rousseau, Miami took a chance on a lanky kid in their backyard that was playing safety and wide receiver. It was Diaz’s prior experience at NC State, coaching Manny Lawson, that convinced Rousseau he could possibly have a big future by moving to defensive end. For Phillips, Miami was a second chance to reach his dream after being medically retired due to prior injuries.
Miami To Miami
The Miami Dolphins selected Phillips with the 18th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, making him the first edge rusher to be taken in the draft. With the selection, Phillips gets to stay where he’s gotten accustomed to. After playing in Hard Rock Stadium for Miami, Phillips now gets to play on that same field as a Miami Dolphin. In addition to the field, he will also be nearby to the campus which he says “saved” him.
The Dolphins are getting a relentless player that is highly skilled and arguably the most talented defensive player in the draft. In his lone season as a Miami Hurricane, Phillips totaled 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He also managed that while playing the majority of the snaps the entire game while being injury-free the entire season. His injury history from his time at UCLA played a part in teams being cautious but the talent shined through it all.
From Broward to Buffalo
Joining Phillips in the AFC East will be Rousseau who got off the board with the 30th pick. In recent weeks, most of the chatter has been about the six-foot-six-inch standout possibly sliding to the second round. Those rumors stem from teams looking at how raw Rousseau still is as a player. As a true freshman against Savannah State, he suffered a broken ankle that ended his season. He bounced back in 2019 with 15.5 sacks while only starting the last seven games of the year. Despite getting the starting nod midseason he still finished second in the nation in sacks.
Rousseau made the tough decision to opt out of the 2020 football season out of consideration for his family. Specifically, his mother, who was a COVID-19 nurse. To alleviate her concern after seeing young people pass away from COVID-19, he began looking at his next phase. Showing up to his pro day 25 pounds heavier than he played the season prior also confused more teams on what player they would get. Ultimately, he landed at a Buffalo Bills team that will use his length in the best positions and look to build off their 13 win season in 2020.