I entered the 2017 Reese’s Senior Bowl with approximately 110 player assessments finished out of my full list of 300 for the 2017 NFL Draft. Youngstown State Defensive End Derek Rivers was not one of those players. I have an inevitable habit of putting prospects with more difficult to find tape on the back burner; especially when starting out. A waiting list of three hundred names does not necessarily lead to a great deal of patience sifting through leads and exchanging All-22.
It took all of about one day in Mobile to realize Youngstown State’s Derek Rivers was not someone I could afford to keep on the back burner. That’s the beauty of a showcase like the Senior Bowl. FCS players every year step up and capitalize on the chance to prove they belong on the same national stage as higher profile players. Rivers is the latest addition to a group of small school prospects the past few years to do just that. Other notable small school names?
Carson Wentz. Javon Hargrave. Noah Spence (he counts!). Jaquiski Tartt. David Johnson. Ali Marpet. All those within the past two years of Senior Bowl rosters. And there in lies the point: If you’re a dominating athlete and you produce like one every week, it doesn’t matter where you’re coming from. If you meet baseline levels of measurements needed to play at the NFL level from a physiological perspective, than the teams you play week in and week out in college are greatly marginalized.
Rivers, for example, boasts one of the most impressive metric resumes in my scoring approach. One of just 4 players in the top 100 overall on my board to increase his final assessment over his film grade, Rivers checks every box you want to see. Below is an excerpt from an article written for FanRag Sports highlighting this same concept of metric enhancement.
Derek Rivers, DE/LB, Youngstown State
Rivers’ film was good. Very good. But his dominance of the FCS level combined with production, big-game experience and a tremendous showing at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine put him into a different stratosphere as a player. Rivers is one of only three players (Hunter Dimick and Zay Jones) in the top 100 to receive a boost greater than a tenth of a point. Rivers’ metric splits are as follows:
- Experience/Leadership: 8.46
- Production: 8.33
- PSAR: 7.18
- Film: 7.50
Blue chip experience, a high productivity player, an impressive physical/size athleticism profile and strong film. I felt compelled to offer an apology for not watching him sooner when I had the chance to speak with Rivers at the Senior Bowl that week in January.
Speaking of apologies, Rivers probably owes one to both the Right Tackle and Quarterback in this showcase of exactly what Rivers does best:
— Bradley Ylitalo (@NFL_drafthub) April 10, 2017
He’s known for his twitch but he’s got even more leverage that you’d expect; yielding some fun results with Tackles who are pressing to sustain the edge and over-set against Rivers:
DE Derek Rivers is a strong dude.. Uses a mix of speed/power moves (30 reps at a Combine) – this DL was aggressive! Every play race to QB.. pic.twitter.com/dlonZ8xm1d
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) March 13, 2017
These are the things you need to see on film from a player at this level. And Rivers brought it week in and week out. As he told me himself: “We got a lot of opportunities as far as being a little more free (this year). We were able to get after it; it was fun.” Yes, yes it was. And expect to see Rivers having fun getting after it this fall as well; much sooner than casual fans would like to believe from a FCS level prospect.