The NFL Draft hopeful has done everything right heading into draft season — he put up big numbers in his final season at Youngstown (14 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss, 58 total tackles), tore up the competition at the senior bowl, then layed down huge numbers at the NFL combine.
He's certainly caught the eyes of NFL scouts, and has a fan in Bleacher Report NFL 1,000 analyst Charles McDonald, who had plenty of nice things to say about the Youngstown product on a recent episode of the Ringer NFL Show podcast with Robert Mays.
Here's what McDonald had to say about Rivers:
"Derek Rivers from Youngstown State, that dude is just, he's a freak…he tested in at least the 80th percentile for almost all of the critical tests, you know, 40-yard dash, broad jump, three-cone. When you watch him at Youngstown State, obviously the level of competition is a little bit down, but you can see, OK, this guys athletically, has the potential to be an elite NFL pass rusher just from an athletic standpoint. You look at how he plays the run, his technique is really good, his hand placement is really good, he's a really refined player."
When asked about the potential landing spot for Rivers and players like him, McDonald compared him with Missouri's Charles Harris this year and former South Carolina State nose tackle and current Pittsburgh Steelers player Javon Hargrave, and said Rivers could go as high as the first round.
"I think you when you kinda compare guys like Charles Harris and Derek Rivers, those are guys that you probably want to be your complimentary pass rushers, but even those guys can still be valuable. Just looking at Derek Rivers, his storyline kind of reminds me of Javon Hargrave from last year where he comes out, he dominates FCS football, goes to the all-star game, dominates the competition there, goes to the combine, blows it up there, and then he has a stellar rookie season, and we're kind of seeing the same trend there from Derek Rivers."
"Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised to see Derek Rivers go in like the top 40 or even slide into the back half of the first round, just because he has all of the things you look for except for the brand name from the school."
And once the draft is done, McDonald sees Rivers competing and producing immediately in the NFL:
"I wouldn't be surprised if Derek Rivers was one of the top sack artists for rookies this season."
You can listen to the entire episode of the Ringer NFL Show on defensive end prospects here: