Derek Rivers - Defensive End - Youngstown State
Weight: 248 lbs
Vertical Jump: 35 inches
Broad Jump: 10-foot-3
40 Yard Dash: 4.61 seconds
Bench Press: 30 reps
Players coming from the FCS level are the true definition of an underdog. They are typically not household names and when their name is called during the NFL Draft, fans are sure to wonder where these guys came from.
Derek Rivers of Youngstown State is one of those players as he could be the first FCS player taken in this year's draft. His ability to get after the passer will attract teams in the early rounds and allow him to get on to the field as a rookie.
Rivers is a small-school prospect that could make a huge impact in the NFL. He was a force for the Penguins, earning first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors the last three seasons. He racked up 35 sacks and 52 tackles for loss in his final three years. His 37.5 career sacks is a school record and he was a key piece to YSU making it to the FCS Championship this past season.
He was dominant against the lesser competition, which is expected for a player with his athleticism. His numbers at the combine were absurd, as his 40 time, bench press, vertical jump and shuttle drill were all best for defensive linemen at the combine. His performance has NFL teams thinking that not only could he excel as a 4-3 defensive end, but as a 3-4 outside linebacker as well.
Looking at the tape, it is clear that Rivers is more than just a workout warrior. His athleticism combined with his high motor will make him attractive to just about every team in the league. He shows the ability to get underneath would-be blockers and beat them at the point of attack with his speed. He also has the arm length and strength to bull rush his opponent. Once he is passed his defender, he has the burst to get to the passer, as evident in his 14 sacks this season, second best in the nation. He is also extremely durable, not missing a single game in his time at Youngstown.
He has the strength to set the edge, but also has a tendency to stray to far wide, leaving big holes for running backs to work with. He also plays with his head down and can struggle to disengage in the running game. Rivers will also have to work on his technique as he often relied on his superior athleticism to beat his opponents. And while some teams feel he has the athletic ability to drop into coverage, he has minimal experience doing so.
Where Rivers lands in the draft could go a long way in determining his NFL future. He should be able to take the field as a pass rusher in his rookie season, but has work to do if he is drafted as a 3-4 OLB. He has the skills to play there, but will take time to develop his coverage skills.
If Rivers went to a FBS school, he is in the discussion as a first-round selection. What remains to be seen is how he fares against competition up to his level, which is why many feel he will be a second-day selection. He is someone to keep an eye on as the draft unfolds as he will be wreaking havoc on quarterbacks for years to come.