Patriots: Who will lead the team in sacks this season?
5. Derek Rivers
For third-year defensive end Derek Rivers, 2019 is likely a make-or-break season. The former graduate of Youngstown State was the highest-drafted player by New England in the 2017 NFL Draft, a promising young prospect who had 41 sacks, 47 quarterback hurries, and 56.5 tackles for loss over the course of an exciting college career.
Unfortunately though, for both Rivers and the Patriots, he missed his entire rookie year after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason. Rivers returned in Week 3 of 2018, though he played sparingly his second year because of the health and depth of the New England defensive end position. A healthy scratch for large stretches of the year, Rivers ultimately played in just six NFL games.
There is some good news for Rivers in 2019, however: a good chunk of those bodies that stood in between him and the field last season are gone. The biggest one is Trey Flowers, but the departure of Adrian Clayborn should also help facilitate an uptick in Rivers’ playing time.
Yes, Michael Bennett is now in town, but he’s also a 33-year-old with 10 years of NFL wear-and-tear on his body. Rivers is 25 and has played in all of six games. In other words, he’s as fresh and able as he’s going to get.
If it doesn’t happen this year, it might not happen at all for the former third-round pick. The time is now for Derek Rivers to shine.