Ex-Patriots top pick Derek Rivers just blew his last chance in NE

Patriots defensive end Derek Rivers was cut loose prior to Sunday’s game.

New England Patriots GM Bill Belichick has been on the receiving end of some harsh criticism for his recent draft failures in light of the team’s slow start to the season. While some of that castigation is unwarranted given how much success he’s brought to New England, he, like any executive, has to face the music and own up to his mistakes.

We would normally go to great lengths to defend Belichick from fault-finding media members, but there is no exonerating him from the disaster that was the Patriots’ 2017 draft class, which is widely (and rightly) viewed as one of the greatest blemishes on his prestigious resume.

Why do we bring this up? Because the latest domino from that quartet of picks has fallen. It was admittedly a long time coming, but the Patriots announced on Saturday that they waived defensive end Derek Rivers, their top overall selection in 2017.

Rivers could return to the practice squad if he clears waivers, but this move unfortunately confirms that he blew his last chance to prove himself in New England, which looked so promising prior to 2020.

In Rivers’ defense, injuries have prevented him from getting his pro career up and running. He missed the entirety of his rookie campaign with a torn ACL and spent the 2018 season on the periphery of the defensive line rotation, appearing in six games (zero starts) while playing just 78 defensive snaps as the Patriots notched their sixth championship of the Belichick era.

That wasted year was followed up with yet another devastating injury, as Rivers was forced to miss all of 2019 after undergoing surgery to repair another torn ACL, making 2020 a must-have breakout campaign for the 26-year-old in order for him to save his future with the Patriots.

In truly unfortunate fashion, Rivers — despite having a perfect opportunity to take advantage of a slew of free agency departures and player opt outs — has grossly underwhelmed this season, registering four tackles, 1.5 sacks and four QB hits in eight games (zero starts) while logging a 16% snap share.

That lack of production simply isn’t going to cut it, especially on a defense that’s desperate for players to step up and make an instant impact. Though he didn’t get a fair shake in the injury department, Rivers has had more than enough chances to prove his worth and he simply never came through.

We wish this marriage had a different ending, but it was honestly written in the stars following his second major knee surgery.

Despite the false hope prior to this season, we never really got sucked in.