One of the most well respected defensive line coaches in the NFL, Kris Kocurek of the Detroit Lions, met with pass rushing defensive end Derek Rivers at the Youngstown State Pro Day on March 14. Lions general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Jim Caldwell have been running their own circuit of pro days and while they didn’t attend the smaller Youngstown State pro day (that I’m aware of), sending Kocurek was a very clear indication of which players they were hoping to get a look at. Draft analyst Tony Pauline was the first to report that the Lions had met with Rivers the night before his pro day. He’s one of our sleepers here at Pride of Detroit, so we wanted to revisit what makes him special and why the Lions are interested.
The 6-foot-4, 250 pound defensive lineman measured only slightly above average in the short shuttle, one of the more important drills of the combine for linemen. In every other drill he ranked nearly elite to among the very elite at his position and came out of the combine ranked in the top 30 for all defensive ends since 1999. If you’re looking for a point of reference here, Rivers came in only one spot behind former No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney, two spots behind Lions Pro Bowler Ezekiel Ansah and tied Devin Taylor. Granted, these numbers are preliminary and won’t be locked in until closer to the draft, but with only his 20-yard split remaining, Rivers has all but secured his place among the most athletically gifted pass rushers of this generation.
Playing at Youngstown State, the small school knock is going to be at the front of many people’s minds when looking at Derek Rivers. Against lighter competition, Rivers lit up his competition, posting 15 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss, and a forced fumble. With 9 sacks in 2015, 14 the year prior, and 3 in his first year, Rivers finished his four year career at Youngstown State with a healthy 41 sacks. Even considering competition, that’s impressive. He wins almost exclusively with his incredible athleticism and will need to refine his technique to reach his ceiling as a pro. Rivers is currently rated as a late second-round pick by CBS and as one of the few players who has already met with the Detroit Lions twice (once at the NFL Combine and now at his Pro Day), he’s one they’re digging into heavily.