With the 10th pick in the 2008 NFL common draft, the New Orleans Saints select Keith Rivers, LB, USC
Has a well-defined frame with thick legs and arms, along with room on his upper body to add more bulk (looks a bit like a strong safety)...Active and aggressive closing on the ball, but needs to show quicker recovery ability when he out-runs the play...Does a good job of keeping plays in front of him, running with a normal stride while showing the ability to quickly accelerate and close on the ball...Has good foot quickness, agility, balance and body control on contact, staying low in his pads to prevent the opponent from slipping off his hits (when he wrap tackles, but has had problems when he takes a side)...Average student, but shows urgency closing on the ball once he locates it...Physical tackler who uses his hands with authority to get to the ball...Hard worker in the training program and is the team leader in the locker room and in practices...Will chase until the whistle and is a heavy hitter once he gets into position to make the play...Has good balance sifting through trash, staying on his feet through trash and bounces up quickly when knocked down...Shows aggressiveness and quickness to step up and take on the runner between the tackles, as well as the ability to stack blockers in one-on-one situations...Best making plays on the move (can be washed out of the play when he tries to battle when stationary)...Does not read keys all the time, but will move and close once he sees the play develop...While he lacks power to split double teams (will get pushed), he works hard to fill the rush lanes...Has enough functional strength to drag the ballcarrier down and will not hesitate to take on the lead blocker in attempts to clog the rush lanes...Uses his hands well to reroute and combat tight ends, showing active hands to control and shed blockers...Has played in a three-point stance earlier in his career and knows how to keep his pads down to gain position...Needs to attack the line of scrimmage more often than he did as a senior, but he does work well through traffic, showing desire and quick acceleration to reach the outside...Can drop in the zone with his head on a swivel, but will get fooled by play-action and pump fakes and does just an adequate job of looking up receivers, but the effort is there...Needs to do a better job of staying in control when tackling, but has enough arm strength to drag the ballcarrier down (likes to arm tackle and take angles)...Has the quickness to run with backs and tight ends in the short-area passing game, using his hands well to reroute...Lacks great anticipation in man coverage, but will accelerate and close when he locates the ball...Can get a good jump on the route, when he does not eye the quarterback too long...Has the leaping ability to compete for jump balls...Will guess at the receiver's routes at times, but he has the hip snap and body flexibility to recover...Uses his hands well to get an edge over the outside shoulder of an offensive tackle in the pass rush and is quick to accelerate to take a wide loop to the passer (fast off the edge to surprise a lethargic blocker, but must not get in one-on-one battles with those linemen, as he struggles to shed when engulfed).
Lacks the lower body strength to gain much penetration on the bull rush and will struggle to shed vs. the bigger blockers, especially vs. double-team action...Must use his hands better when fending off blocks and when they get outside his framework, he leaves himself too exposed and linemen then have success locking on, as he loses his anchor and is quickly washed out of the play...Has the quickness to close in a hurry, but will lose sight of the ball in a crowd and must do a better job sifting through trash...Has the loose hips to drop back in pass coverage, but is a bit of a liability here as he is susceptible to pump fakes and will eye the quarterback too long, letting receivers gobble up his cushion...Needs to have a clear path to the quarterback, as he has been exposed for strength issues when trying to shoot the gaps (gets ping-ponged by the bigger blockers, especially when he fails to keep his anchor and narrows his base)...Gets a bit reckless in his pursuit and despite having loose hips, he will take false steps in his recovery...Tries to make the big play on the ball rather than wrap and secure the ballcarriers at times...Has a good burst on the blitz, but is slow to locate the quarterback and will out-run the passer, as he has just adequate stop-and-go action...Needs to improve his wrap-tackle technique, as he will ankle bite at times and fail to attack the outside leg of the runner...Just an adequate student and might have problems digesting a complicated playbook.
KENDRELL BELL-Kansas City...Rivers might have garnered lots of postseason honors in 2007, but there was something amiss in his play. He is not the most instinctive open-field tackler and seemed to be favoring his nagging ankle problems, thus limiting his range and pursuit skills. Five tackles behind the line of scrimmage do not warrant first-team All-American honors. He has the frame that you look for in an outside linebacker, along with the quickness, but there are legitimate questions as to whether he has the valid instincts or lower body power to be an every-down player. Like Bell, he can make the big play, but there needs to be more consistency in his play. With a marginal feel for the passing game, especially when working in the zone, the jury is out on this guy, much like it has been on Bell since earlier in his career. Can this be the "boom or bust" pick of the 2008 linebacker class?
2005: Suffered a hamstring strain prior to the Washington game (10/22) that forced him to sit out vs. Stanford (11/05)...Re-injured his hamstring vs. Fresno State (11/19), missing the UCLA clash (12/03).
2007: Underwent left ankle surgery to remove bone spurs in spring camp...Suffered a left ankle sprain vs. California (11/10), sitting out the following week vs. Arizona State (11/22).
The rumor is that New Orleans will sign Asante Samuel at the start of the free agency period, solving their CB problem. Even if they don't, the selection of cornerbacks at the 10 slot isn't stellar, and Rivers is by far the best defensive player left on the board.