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New England Patriots - Derek Rivers
Derek Rivers - Linebacker, New England Patriots
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New England Patriots: Breakout Candidate – LB Derek Rivers

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It is hard to think of a rookie third round draft pick as a breakout player. The New England Patriots, however, might have found themselves one in former Youngstown State linebacker Derek Rivers. Without a pick in the first two rounds, the team needed to get a player who could play immediately in round three. With a strong need at defensive end, the Patriots will look for Rivers to play with his hand in the dirt on game day.

Moving from linebacker to defensive end should be an easy transition for the rookie. With the New England Patriots already having two able bodied starters in Trey Flowers and Kony Ealy anchoring their line. With that, Rivers will not have the pressure of being an instant starter. He can sit back on the depth chart and learn the speed of the game. With any luck, he will catch on to the playbook early and be a sub when Flowers or Ealy need a rest. The Patriots can also use him in a variety of packages Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia likes to throw at teams. If he has the talent that he flashed in college, he could come in and push the starting duo to bring their best every week.

River’s ability to set the edge will set the tone for the pass rush. He can get after quarterbacks and his closing speed makes him dangerous against opposing quarterbacks. He should be able to make an impact on third down plays, primarily in third and long situations. With a quick first move, any lineman who misses a step at the snap of the ball will suffer the consequences. The rookie lineman will blow right by should opponents not get out of their stances quick enough. His strength and quick hands should be able to shed blockers quick in the run game but he will need work.

His lack of awareness will be his downfall. Derek Rivers often does not keep his head on a swivel and loses sight of the ball once it is in play. If he does not learn to pick up the carrier, misdirection and play action will hinder his effectiveness. Since each division rival features a running back who can turn it up field, New England will want to address this first. Rivers might have to learn on the fly but again as a backup, they will have plenty of time to work with him without too many expectations. Look for teams to attack his awareness and expose his ability to bite on plays when they are trailing.

Being a third round pick will work out perfectly for Derek Rivers. He will have just enough expected of him to pull off being a success. If he comes out and pushes the starting lineup early on, the New England Patriots will look like mad scientists. If he stumbles out the gate, he is only a mid-level pick. It ends up being a win-win scenario for New England. Overall, the rookie has tremendous upside. He will have plenty of time to fine tune his skill sets on a championship team. New England has a history of making players famous. Can Rivers be the next one?

Editors Note: Ths article can also be seen in our upcoming NFL Preview Edition.

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