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Scouting the NFL Draft: Youngstown State EDGE Derek Rivers

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    Scouting the NFL Draft: Youngstown State EDGE Derek Rivers
    Getty Images
    Defensive lineman Derek Rivers of Youngstown State participates in a drill during day five of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium March 5, 2017, in Indianapolis. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

    Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State
    Ht. 6'3½", Wt. 248, Arm: 32¾", Hand: 9⅜", Bench: 30
    40 yd: 4.61, 10 yd.: 1.61, 3 Cone: 6.94, Vertical: 35", Broad: 10'3"

    Derek Rivers was a team captain for Youngstown State and is the school's all-time career leader with 41.

    Rivers played in the FCS National Championship game in Frisco, losing to James Madison. Back in January, he was a standout performer during the Senior Bowl practice week.

    Strengths (per former NFL Scout Chris Landry and Pro Football Focus)
    • Flexible athlete with natural bend to dip around the corner
    • Easy burst off the edge
    • Extends with a quick punch to engage and create spacing while maintaining his balance and low pad level
    • Uses his hands well to fend off counter jabs, showing various snatch and rip techniques…flashes the ability to convert speed to power in his pass rush
    • Moves well laterally to sidestep blockers
    • Alert run defender to keep contain and string plays outside - sees through blockers to track the football
    • Strong hands/wrists to finish tackles
    • Athletic bloodlines - father (John) played basketball (903 rebounds, 108 blocks) and football (20 catches, nine receiving touchdowns) at Virginia Tech
    • Has worked hard to max out his frame
    • Senior captain and considered a low-key, high character individual
    • Productive three-year starter with 56.5 tackles for loss in 37 career starts.
    • One of the top athletes in the entire class. Fantastic burst off the line of scrimmage when he gets an obvious pass situation.
    • Almost never came off the field for Youngstown State. Played 79 of 83 snaps against West Virginia and all 58 snaps against Eastern Washington.
    • Plays with great leverage against the run and as a bull-rusher. Sinks his hips and keeps arms locked out.
    • Extremely disciplined against the run. Carried out his assignments almost to a fault at times.
    • Has the ability to drop off the line of scrimmage and play in space if need be.

    Weaknesses (per Landry, draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki and PFF)
    • Slightly undersized frame and lacks ideal length
    • Doesn’t have the upper body power to press blockers off his frame and can be engulfed by wide-based blockers
    • Tends to get lost on inside runs and can be sealed from lanes
    • Struggles to anchor vs. power and can be taken out of the play
    • Requires a half-second to reset his eyes vs. the run when required to start/stop
    • Initial burst isn’t an issue, but often late off the snap and needs to improve his anticipation
    • Room to expand his pass rush moves to keep blockers guessing
    • Battled a right ankle sprain as a senior (Nov. 2016) - started taking medication for seizures when he was nine years old…lacks ideal experience against top competition - only three career starts vs. FBS competition (six tackles, two sacks)
    • Has short arms and stays blocked too long
    • Tight-hipped and needs to do a better job anchoring against the run
    • Does not play strong or physical
    • Gets knocked off the ball and pinned inside and outside.
    • Production came in clumps vs. bad opponents.
    • Level of competition is a serious concern. Wasn’t nearly as productive in Senior Bowl practices as he was at Youngstown St.
    • A good deal of pass rushes with no real plan of attack. Runs straight at tackle and engages.
    • Too often content ceding ground in the run game. Will lock into the block and almost refuse to make plays outside of his gap.
    • Mostly a one-hit pass-rusher. If his initial move is stoned, he has little else in his toolbox.

    NFL Draft comparison: Williams Hayes, Miami Dolphins.

    Verdict: Third round

    Scouts think Rivers may be best as a 3-4 linebacker rather than a hand-down defensive end in a 4-3 defense. He was a three-year starter with lots of production at YSU. He played for Bo Pelini who coached a lot of good players during his tenure at Nebraska and LSU.