Keith Rivers and Jerod Mayo are both very similar players, in very different situations. They were drafted ninth and tenth overall in this year's NFL Draft. Rivers went ninth to the Cincinnati Bengals and Mayo went tenth to the New England Patriots. It's safe to say that Mayo is on a better team and in a better environment. Most would agree that it is also safe to say that Rivers is more athletic and has much more portential than Mayo. Let's take a look at their pasts:
Keith Rivers is an outside linebacker, but he can play inside as well. He is 6'3" and he weighs about two hundred thirty-five pounds. He was heavily recruited out of highschool and the USC Trojans, like they do often, succeeded in recruiting him. At USC he was graced with the number fifty-five, also given to Junior Seau and Willi McGinest. As a freshman Rivers played often, but as a back up. He played behind Matt Gootegoed. He also played a little at defensive end as a pass rusher and on special teams. He appeared in all thirteen games. As a sophomore he was a starter as a weakside linebacker, but he pulled his hamstring and missed three games. He had over twice as many tackles as a sophomore as a freshman and he recovered two fumbles along with an interception. As a junior he appeared in every game and he lead the Trojans with eighty-five tackles, seven and a half of those were for losses and two were sacks. As a senior Rivers remained at weakside linebacker for the third straight year as a starter. He sprained his ankle and missed a game, but other than that he played every game. In those games he accumulated seventy-eight tackles while recovering three fumbles and forcing another. Despite playing for such a star studded defense at USC he managed to produce and stick out.
I have a teacher who has the last name Mayo, I don't like him. Luckily, they aren't related. Anyways, back to Jerod. Mayo is about the same size as Rivers, 6'1" and about two hundred forty pounds. He was not as heralded out of highschool as Rivers was, but the Volunteers still landed him. In high school he played running back for seven games and had over one thousand yards. How's that for versatility? He played both inside and outside linebacker while at Tennessee and he succeeded at both positions. In 2005, as a redshirted freshman, Mayo appeared in only six games, playing weakside linebacker like Rivers did. Next season as a sophomore Mayo started every game at wekside linebacker and he had eithy-three tackles and five sacks. As a junior this season Mayo moved to inside linebacker. He had an incredible amount of productivity. He accumulated one hundred forty tackles, that's tied for the most since 1990 by any Volunteer. He was the co-captain for Tenessee and he led that defense. I watched an interview by Mayo on youtube and he seems like a very well spoken person. I have read that he has great character, and thanks to the Steelers we know that he has never cheated on his girlfriend.
So there you go. Two similar players with differences here and there. They went to very different colleges. Rivers was on a spectaculur defense that may have overshadowed him while Mayo was on a dreadful defense where he excelled. Could this mean anything? Obviously it has some effect.
USC has had a good history of linebackers, they're no Penn State however. They had the likes of Junior Seau, Chris Claiborne, and WillieMcGinest graduate as Trojans. Those three all wore number fifty-five and they all were taken in the top ten of the draft, as was Rivers. I can't think of any top linebackers who came out of the Volunteer's system, but maybe Mayo will be one.
As I said earlier, these players were drafted into very different situations. Rivers is on a team without good linebackers who were decimated by injuries last season. Mayo is on a linebacker corps with veteran leaders teaching him what to do. Landon Johnson is the best example Rivers has to follow. Mayo can choose between Mike Vrabel, Adalius Thomas, Tedy Bruschi, and Junior Seau. Also, the Bengals were terrible last year and the Patriots only lost one game. The Bengals are known to have reckless players who get in trouble with the law, there is a Truth & Rumor about another one today actually. The Patriots' players usually don't have any confrontations with the law.
These players both have the chance to be great. While Rivers may have more skill, athleticism, versatiliy, etc., Mayo has been blessed with a great team and great leaders. This was talked about in Bill Simmons' column of NBA Awards when he was talking about Rajon Rondo learning from the likes of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce. I expect Mayo to take advantage of the things he learns from Bruschi, Vrabel, Thomas, and Seau and put them to good use.