Scouting the NFL Draft: Youngstown State EDGE Derek Rivers

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

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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.

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