Keith Rivers, Linebacker, USC
6’2″, 240 lbs, Senior, 4.6
Strengths: Versatility. In the Senior Bowl, Keith Rivers was able to play three linebacker positions. Rivers’ versatility should allow him to move to insider linebacker in the 3-4, should he be drafted by a 3-4 team. He is also very althletic. He ran a great 40, can get sideline to sideline, make great plays in pursuit, and is good in coverage. Rivers is also good off the blitz, and is aggressive player who has the ability to make big hits.
Weaknesses: Although Rivers doesn’t have much downside, he sometimes gets too hasty and out of control. Sometimes, he prefers to make a Rodney Harrison hit (goes for the knockout rather than the form tackle), than doing form tackling. His other weakness is strength. If he were to add a few pounds of strength, he would be much better at shedding blocks and playing a complete physical game.
Role: Simply stated, the Patriots need linebacker depth, and Rivers could provide that. Although he would project as an inside linebacker in the 3-4, his quickness and versatility could allow him to play all over the field. If he added some weight, Rivers could be a fixture on the Patriots defense for the next 10 years.
What the experts say: D.J. Boyer, Football.com
I didn’t have Rivers at the top of my linebacker charts at the beginning of the year but he has worked his way up there even though he statistically didn’t have as good of a season in 2007 as he did in 2006. A natural leader who shows flashes of brilliance and reads and reacts to plays better than any other linebacker in this class. Looks like Rivers has the frame to bulk up and add weight without affecting his speed. Seems to explode through ball carriers and is one of the better linebackers in pass coverage that is available. Has the range to play on the outside or in the middle and the team that takes him will likely try him at both positions. Has dropped some weight at USC was a little heavier when his playing days began and actually saw time as a pass rushing defensive end as a freshman. Played through nagging ankle injuries all season so toughness shouldn’t be questioned.