October 27, 2012; Columbia, SC, USA; Tennessee Volunteers tight end Mychal Rivera (81) makes a reception in front of South Carolina Gamecocks linebacker DeVonte Holloman (21) in the second half at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFL Draft Projection: Mychal Rivera To The Miami Dolphins

Mychal Rivera – Tight End – 6’3″/244

One of the more under the radar Vols this year in the draft is senior tight end Mychal Rivera.

Rivera is one of eight former Tennessee Volunteers that could hear their name called next weekend at the 2013 NFL draft.

Last season the California native set a Tennessee record for receiving yards by a tight end with 562 yards, breaking a record formerly held by Jason Witten (493 yards) the pro-bowl tight end that is currently with the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite this you haven’t heard much about Rivera. That’s because the Volunteers are coming off their most prolific offensive season since 1996, and most of that production will be selected in the upcoming draft. With names like Tyler Bray, Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson floating around, it’s easy to see why Rivera hasn’t received that much attention.

During Rivera’s time at Tennessee he proved to be a consistent and reliable receiving option. He finished his career with a catch in 18 straight games. Rivera also finished his career at Tennessee with 1,018 yards, which ranks second all-time for tight ends at Tennessee (Reggie Harper is first with 1,141 yards).

Rivera showed that he’s capable of putting up big numbers as well. Against Missouri in 2012 he had 129 receiving yards on 10 catches along with a touchdown.

The tight end position has been evolving over the last decade and Rivera fits the mold of that new-era tight end. The former Vol is very athletic and more of a receiving threat than a physical blocking type. That’s not to say that Rivera isn’t a capable blocker, but that isn’t his strength.

Rivera’s greatest strength lies in his route running and great hands. Rivera is a very smooth route runner, he always appeared to run the correct routes at Tennessee and was extremely crisp in his execution. At times Rivera looked more like a wide receiver on the field than a tight end.

As far as catching ability goes, Rivera had very few drops while at Tennessee. He was able to bring in off-target passes from Tyler Bray when necessary.

So where do we project Mychal Rivera to be drafted?

We project Rivera to be drafted in the 5th round by the Miami Dolphins with the 166th overall pick. The Dolphins have struggled to find a reliable option at tight end and seemingly missed in the draft last year when they drafted Michael Egnew out of Missouri in the third round. Egnew was active for only two games in his rookie season.

Head coach Joe Philbin likes an athletic tight end that’s a capable receiver. During Philbin’s time as offensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers he utilized the receiving abilities of Jermichael Finley at the tight end position. Rivera and Finley are similar in build and their combine performances are comparable as well. Finley ran slightly faster in the 40 (4.67 for Finley versus 4.81 for Rivera), but their numbers were very close in the other drills.

Tight end is a position of need for the Dolphins, but the team isn’t likely to spend a high pick in the draft on a tight end. Some draft analysts believe that Rivera is a bit undersized to be a tight end, but we believe he fits into the offensive scheme in Miami  nicely and that’s why we project Mychal Rivera to be a Miami Dolphin by this time next week.


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