Prospect Preview: Mike Rivera

As previously mentioned most NFL teams are quite enamored with the hybrid OLB/DE types that fit into the 3-4 scheme. It’s all the rage this year with 10 prospects likely to go in the first two rounds of the draft. Thanks can go to Ware and Harrison of Dallas and Pittsburgh respectively.

On the flip side of the equation though is something of a bit of interest. With so many teams looking at the 3-4 hybrid types, the likelihood that some quality 4-3 OLB types slip to the later rounds of the draft are quite good.

One such prospect is Mike Rivera from Kansas University who showed some explosive athleticism at the KU pro day. By LB standards Rivera about jumped out of the gymnasium with his 38 1/2 inch vertical which would have been a full inch and a half better than all of the other LBs at the NFL Scouting combine. More importantly Rivera is not projected as a weak-side prospect with his 6-foot-3 245-pound frame.

Rivera is a converted MIKE ‘backer who started playing the SAM position in 2006. From that point forward he was a tackling machine racking up over 95 tackles per season over three seasons, including an average of 10 tackles for a loss. These are ideal numbers for a SAM ‘backer prospect who needs to be big and physical to match up with the strong-side run formation where the TEs typically line up.

Rivera’s stock is on the rise and rightfully so with his 4.62 speed in the 40-yard dash to go with his vertical leap. That type of straight line speed will help him match up well with TEs in the 4-3 cover-2 the Bears primarily run. He also showed ability against the pass with seven pass break ups in 2007 and four more in 2008. His seven pass break ups were second on the team and is pretty high for a linebacker prospect who is not typically asked to make a lot of plays in the passing game, where it’s not typical for TEs to be a primary receiving option in college.

Rivera is yet another prospect who is being scouted over thoroughly by the coaching staff and looks like he could be brought in in the later rounds of the draft. It’s no secret that these unheralded but productive college players with solid athleticism are being worked over by one of the most productive scouting departments in the league. Productive by defensive standards as Angelo and his crew have shown time and again that they can unearth project players who develop on special teams and turn into above average pros later in their careers. Perhaps Mike Rivera will be just that type of player come the second day of the NFL draft.

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