2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Youngstown State OLB Derek Rivers

From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to examine as many prospects as possible and showcase both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.

Derek Rivers/OLB Youngstown State – 6’4/1 250

The Good

– NFL height and weight, average-ish length but overall size for the position
– Nuanced pass rusher with excellent hand use, leverage and placement
– Has a clear go-to pass rush move, dip/rip, to high degree of success
– Tremendous flexibility around the edge, able to corner and rarely taken up the arc
– Heavy handed pass rusher with a strong initial punch
– Gets the most out of his length, shows arm extension and creates space between he and the blocker
– Able to convert speed to power, above average first step
– Works hard to get off blocks in the run game, able to get and stay disengaged and fights through trash, works off reach blocks from backside on zone schemes well
– Experience playing in two and three point stance
– Does well to keep contain as a pass rusher, doesn’t freelance, and rarely taken out of the play
– Lots of starting experience, durable, no real injury history

The Bad

– Length for height is not great (32 3/8 inches)
– Lacking a strong counter move, will have to fill out pass rushing repertoire, will lean on OTs when his first move fails
– Want to see stronger effort chasing the ball away from him and past the LOS
– Played against worse competition, will have to make jump from FCS level
– Didn’t move around that much, mostly on the left side, minimal experience dropping into coverage


– Three year starter
– Career: 56.5 TFL, 37.5 sacks, 3 FF
– Linebacker/tight end in high school
– Played football and basketball in HS
– Originally went to Fork Union Military Academy out of school because of poor test scores, played one season there

Tape Breakdown

Rivers is one of many in a long list of talented EDGE rushers who will probably be gone within the first 45 picks. Some still view Rivers as a third, or heck, even fourth round pick, but I think after the Combine, people will realize he is going to go much higher.

He’s a really nuanced pass rusher with great hand use. Isn’t just winning with his first step, speed, or strength. He wins with his hand use; his initial punch, ability to shed, and his best move.

This is against Illinois State, far from a powerhouse, but it came against a senior right tackle, not some freshmen making his first start. And Rivers made him look as silly as a pass rusher can.

You see the hand use, knocking down the tackle’s hands, dipping his inside shoulder, and cornering on his way to the quarterback.

He’s a strong athlete. This play against Northern Iowa shows it. Zone read, watch him squeeze the back, forcing the QB to keep, and then he pushes laterally to tackle him, too.

Or here, showing off his ability to convert speed to power. And it’s important to note it came against Wet Virginia, not an FCS-level team.

Again, against the Mountaineers, we see his technique. Arm extension, not completely flexed, elbows still hinged, but extended, with his hands inside the numbers of the tackle, creating power on his rush.

The negatives are, frankly, difficult to find. He doesn’t have much experience dropping into coverage, but there is some, and he looks fairly competent to do it. Enough for a baseline feel to say, yeah, he shouldn’t struggle there too mightily.

One of the bigger ones is one I gave Javon Hargrave, who I also struggled to find a clear list of negatives with. When the ball goes away from him and past the line, I’d like to see his effort level be a little higher. Finish every play. But for an every down player in college, it’s not uncommon, and I don’t think he’s dogging it out there the way a guy like Gerod Holliman did.

Frankly, I’m talking myself into entertaining him at 30th overall. I think he’ll make that push by the time the draft comes around and will be one of the first small-school selections off the board.

Projection: Mid-Day One (late first/early second)

Games Watched: vs West Virginia, vs Illinois State, vs Northern Iowa, Senior Bowl

Previous 2017 NFL Draft Player Profiles
Deshaun WatsonHaason ReddickMarshon LattimoreCorey ClementTim Williams
Jourdan LewisTakkarist McKinleyBrad KaayaNathan PetermanO.J. Howard
Charles HarrisAlvin KamaraTyus BowserDavid NjokuDeMarcus Walker
Chidobe AwuzieDeShone KizerMarlon MackCameron SuttonZach Cunningham
Corey DavisCarl LawsonPatrick MahomesKareem HuntEvan Engram
Budda Baker

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.