With the 9th pick of the 2008 NFL Draft, the Bengals select USC LB Keith Rivers

As much as Curnutte's word in his blog post wanted us to believe that the Bengals didn't think highly of Keith Rivers, with their first-round pick, the Cincinnati Bengals select... Keith Rivers.

PERSONALY, like I said in the comments, I like this pick. Like many, I don't believe that Rivers seems like a godly play-blowin' up defensive player. What I do believe is that the team drafted a character guy (I hate that term), with leadership qualities and a stabilizing force for the linebackers group as a whole -- if not, the entire defense. We haven't had that guy at linebacker since Odell Thurman's rookie season nor do we have leadership qualities on the defense as a whole.

Again, it might not be sexy, but this pick will give the Bengals stability and leadership on defense for a long time. And we've desperately needed that. Worth it.

For the Team. I think through many discussions, most people believe this to be a safe pick. The Bengals lost several linebackers through free agency -- while Landon Johnson was the only real "loss" -- but signed very middle-of-the-road talent to one-year deals. With two fast bookends, the Bengals have a potential Odell Thurman, Ahmad Brooks and Keith Rivers look on opening day. And if the team goes after a big defensive tackle in the second round, the potential 3-4 make-up seems somewhat possible -- though still highly unlikely.

Marvin Lewis press conference with assistant coaches on drafting Keith Rivers. Main things to point out is that the coaches believe he's a first-year starter that will play at any of the three linebacker spots and be an All-Pro for many seasons in this league.

Here's YouTube video of Rivers.

What does this mean? Rivers will be the team's 12th linebacker -- seven of whom will be free agents after this season. The Bengals would likely play Rivers on weak-side, keep Brooks over the middle while Jeanty is the leading man at strong-side. Thurman is definitely expected to force himself somewhere while Eric Henderson becomes a questionable project. Would they take Henderson back to defensive end and add to the Antwan Odom, Robert Geathers rotation?

Keith Rivers reacts on his blog.

This is an absolutely surreal experience. I am numb right now. I'm not sure what to do - jump up and down or cry - I'm just so excited about being a Cincinnati Bengal. Coach Marvin Lewis made the call. When my phone rang it was an unknown number and I had some friends calling before that so I wasn't sure if I should answer it. I was thrilled to get the call. My agent called after that and told me Carson Palmer was jumping up and down. I will be too - I'm a Cincinnati Bengal!

Linebackers coach, Jeff FitzGerald: "He's a face of the franchise."

Here's Keith's reaction.

Reaction:

Scouts, Inc. gives the following analysis of Rivers.

Strengths: Possesses outstanding size; is well built for his taller frame. Also has long arms (33), huge hands (11) and a strong upper body (24 reps). Not an elite athlete, but he does have good speed and athleticism for his size. Makes up for what he lack in terms of elite athleticism with great recognition skills. He is smart, tough and instinctive. Shows very good awareness. Rarely takes false steps. Is a striker as a tackler. Will make some big hits due to his short area explosiveness. Uses hands well to keep off of blocks. He refuses to stay blocked. Takes excellent angles in pursuit. Displays good range in zone coverage. Also is an underrated pass rusher. Has developed a better array of pass rush moves, hugs the rail as he turns the corner as an outside rusher and displays surprising closing burst to the QB. Knows how to jar the ball loose and generates more than his share of forced fumbles. Plays with a very good motor and will wear blockers down. Never gives up on a play and will show tremendous effort when pursuing from the backside. He's always flying around the field. Leads by example.

Weaknesses: Plays too high at times and loses his power when he does. Does a great job of sifting through traffic but needs to learn to anchor better when he's forced to take on blocks in the phone booth. Shows a bit of stiffness in his hips. Will struggle to keep with elite pass-catching RB's in the NFL on double moves and when forced to turn and run. Not an established play maker in coverage. Good range in coverage but lacks ideal ball skills. Durability is a minor concern.

Overall: Rivers appeared in 37 games in his first three seasons at USC (2004-'06), recording 162 tackles (13.5 for losses), 5.5 sacks and two interceptions. As a senior in 2007, he played 12 games (11 starts) at weak-side linebacker, turning in 78 tackles (five for losses), three fumble recoveries, a forced fumble and four pass breakups. He missed a game (Arizona State) in 2007 after spraining his left ankle, which had required arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs earlier in the spring. He also missed two games in 2005 and was limited in others because of a hamstring strain. Rivers possesses very good but not exceptional overall physical tools. His outstanding combination of instincts, work ethic and experience is what separates him from other linebackers with similar skill sets. While he is the top rated linebacker on our 2008 board, Rivers is a notch below elite talents such as A.J. Hawk (Packers) and Patrick Willis (49ers) from recent NFL drafts. Some teams could consider him at inside linebacker but Rivers seems best suited to play the WILL in a 4-3 scheme. He should be selected in the middle portion of the first round.

This page will continuously be updated with Rivers analysis.

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