As we journey through this NFL draft process together, searching for the next great Dallas Cowboys pass rusher, we make an unexpected stop at Youngstown State University to visit Derek Rivers.
Rivers, who was named first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference this year, is a 6-5 250 pound defensive end who dominated the FCS during his college career. Rivers finished the 2016 season with 14 sacks and 58 tackles, showing versatility as a defensive end against both the pass and run.
In my draft work over at Slant Sports, I completed another scouting report, this time profiling Rivers. Derek Rivers brings a lot to the table, with a great speed rush and an underrated power rush which keep even the best offensive tackles off balance.
His best trait is that first step quickness. Rivers comes off the ball explosively, playing with a jet-pack on his back, especially on obvious passing downs. If your offense gets into a 3rd and long situation against Rivers, he will pin his ears back and get to the quarterback right now.
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Against the run, Rivers is disciplined and smart in his approach, showing good block recognition and rarely over-pursuing plays.
Rivers is able to beat slower offensive tackles off the ball and cross their face to make plays. He also does a good job of keeping his pads clean and shedding blocks with a quick swim or rip at the point of attack.
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In my mind, there is no question that Derek Rivers is worth a second-round pick for the Cowboys. I have given Rivers a day two grade, and if it weren’t for this deep EDGE class, I believe it would be possible for him to rise into the first round.
Yes, the level of competition (or lack thereof) that Rivers faced in college is a bit concerning, but the traits which Rivers possesses, especially as a pass rusher, make him an intriguing prospect.
The problem is, Will McClay rarely drafts small school guys. Especially not in the first two rounds. As much fun as it would be to see Rivers rushing the passer with a Star on his helmet, the Cowboys front office seems more inclined to take chances on big school guys way before someone from Youngstown State.
I don’t exactly agree with this approach, but it is the way the Cowboys do business. But hey, DeMarcus Ware came from Troy, so I hope this front office keeps an open mind.