Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rivers, Wise In Mold Of Prototypical Patriots' Edge Defenders

A rich man's Jabaal Sheard.

That's how NFL.com's resident draft expert Mike Mayock referred to the New England Patriots' top draft pick, Youngstown State's Derek Rivers in the moments immediately following him being selected at number 83 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft.

What did he mean by that?  Well, when the opposite is invoked, the Webster's Online Dictionary defines a someone as being a poor man's version of someone else as being "cheaper than, simpler than or inferior to." that person - so we can only assume that Mayock believes that Rivers has the potential to be superior to what Sheard brought to the lineup.
Arkansas' Deatrich Wise

His words, not ours - and it's really an unfair comparison, for both.

If there is a comparison to be made for Rivers, it would be with former-Patriot Jamie Collins, who played both with his hand in the dirt and from a standing position in college, then went straight to being a strong-side linebacker in the pros, his athleticism showing up all along the formation.

They have similar builds, similar burst off the edge and both display the swing-them-down type of tackling technique when they reach the ball carrier.  They both set a hard edge and have relentless motors - but there are differences, of course.  For example, Rivers hasn't yet developed a feel for when to disengage from his mirror to uncover his outside shoulder to the sweep or screen...

...meaning that he strings plays out to the sidelines so that supporting safeties or linebackers can make the play.  He also isn't as stout against the run as Collins, but he has shown the ability to stunt inside and beat tackles and guards with his quickness and burst much like Collins did.

While Rivers is long and lean and built like a stand up, strong-side linebacker, the Patriots' fourth round pick, Arkansas' Deatrich Wise, is more along the line of what Belichick has sought in defensive ends of late - that being powerful, five-technique ends that can two gap on the edge of a three man front.

Wise has uncommon strength to set a solid edge with long arms and a power punch that regularly rag-dolled offensive tackles in the SEC, so many teams discovered early on in contests that a sixth offensive lineman or a tight end needed to be employed to chip Wise coming off the line before he could get his huge hands up into the tackle's pads.  If left to his own devices, Wise has the ability to put his mirror on skates and shove him right back into the pocket.

Though he generated power from both sides, he seems to be better off of the right edge as he seems to move better laterally to his left to stunt into holes created by the nose tackle's double team - and most running plays appeared to run to the opposite side of where he is lined up, as the edge is tough to get to for backs with Wise shoving the tackle three or four yards deep in the backfield.

At 6' 5" and 280, Wise fits the mold of defensive ends coming out of the Razorbacks' program, and follows in the footsteps of fellow Arkansas alum Trey Flowers in the power department.  Neither are what one would consider quick twitch, relying mainly on strength to reset the line of scrimmage in the opponent's backfield, getting the quarterback off his mark.

And that's really what the Patriots have so far as defensive linemen.

The depth chart at defensive end suggests a 3-4 or a 3-3-6 defensive alignment, with Kony Ealy and Rivers being identically sized (6' 4", 270) athletes who rush the passer better than playing in run support, so both could be considered stand up options on passing downs, Identically sized (6' 2", 320) Malcolm Brown and Vincent Valentine as two-gap run stuffers at nose tackle and four five-technique ends of varying size and skill levels...

...in the powerful and up-and-coming Flowers (6' 2", 265)along with greybeard Alan Branch (6' 6", 350), free agent pick up Lawrence Guy (6' 4", 305) and the rookie Wise, all pushing the ageless wonder Rob Ninkovich to strong-side linebacker where he will face competition for his roster spot for the first time since coming to the Patriots in 2009.

Belichick likes running his unique Big Nickel alignment with three man fronts, but he needed more out of his pass rush than he got last season, despite the late-season spark it received from Flowers - which is why he let Sheard go in free agency and sent a second round draft pick to Carolina for Ealy, the trade off being that Ealy is a more athletic and natural pass rusher.

And with New England sporting the best secondary in the league and a linebacking corps that features the best blitzing linebacker in the NFL in the versatile Dont'a Hightower as well as top-round draft picks in Kyle Van Noy and Shea McClellin, it will be tough for opposing offense to figure out where the pass rush is coming from and what coverages are assigned to whom.

Add that all up, and Belichick's draft - both the picks he actually used as well as the picks he shipped off to other teams for top talent - borders on genius once again.


  1. Their going to be great all bills draft picks are going to be great