Diamond in the Rough: Ryan Riggins

Diamond in the Rough: Ryan Riggins, OT, Fort Valley State
By Charlie Campbell, @draftcampbell

Every year in the NFL Draft, there are talented players that slip through the cracks. Players go undrafted for a variety of reasons like being too undersized, a lack of speed, injuries, a lack of production in college or playing at lower level of competition. Some players end up not getting invited to the NFL Scouting Combine and end up falling to the late rounds or going undrafted all together.

The history of the NFL features some great players who went undrafted, including Hall of Famers like quarterback Warren Moon. In recent years, there have been other superstars who were undrafted free agents, including Tony Romo, Kurt Warner, London Fletcher, Antonio Gates, Arian Foster, Brian Waters and Priest Holmes. Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith became the Super Bowl MVP after not getting invited to the Combine and being a seventh-round pick.

With so much talent falling through the cracks, WalterFootball.com decided to start a new series to showcase some of the under-the-radar talents in the 2014 draft class. These players could be late-round picks or undrafted free agents who end up becoming steals for their NFL teams.

This edition features Fort Valley State offensive tackle Ryan Riggins. The Houston, Texas product is a massive edge blocker who checks in at 6-foot-7, 315 pounds. Sources tell WalterFootball.com that Riggins is on their radar as a late-round pick or priority free agent. They say that his movement skills are excellent for such a big blocker. After dominating his level of competition, Riggins played at the Medal of Honor all-star game. Riggins said he’s willing to do whatever is necessary to earn a roster spot in the NFL.

Coming from Division II and competing against the players at the Medal of Honor game, have you been looking to gain strength for the NFL or shed weight to emphasize speed?

“Actually, I’ve gained weight. I came in at 308. It isn’t bad weight; I’ve just bulked up a lot. We’ve worked on everything as far as Combine drills and flexibility, hips, all that kind of stuff. I didn’t have any running technique, so everything they told me I’m grabbing onto real quick. I think I’m going to run a pretty good time.”

What are you working on to improve your game for competing at training camp next summer?

“Right now, I’m just trying to work on the small things. My footwork; recovery and going from speed rushers to power rushers. Right now, I’m focusing on those things along with things that I’m good at. We had an evaluation day, and any flaws they saw I’m working on now.”

What would you say are your strengths for the next level?

“I’m athletic for my height and size. I carry my weight well. Coming from D2, I would say hard work and perseverance. Overcoming obstacles and stuff like that. It wasn’t easy for me. A lot of guys are quick to quit and won’t push through. I push through. I’m coming from Division 2; we don’t have the best facilities and there could be times where we practiced and we didn’t have water. So, I have the mindset of pushing through.”

For the NFL, do you see yourself as a right tackle, left tackle or a swing tackle who can play both?

“That is one thing that I’m working on that I started at the Medal of Honor Bowl and in workouts. I played right tackle and right guard in college, but after these workouts, I’m getting comfortable at left tackle and I wouldn’t mind playing that in the NFL. So I could be a swing tackle on either side like you say, or right guard.”

Why would you say right guard over left guard?

“Just that I’m naturally right handed out of my stance. With tackle, it is easy to switch your stance going from one side to the other, but the technique at guard is totally different. …. I’m facing bigger guys, so my recovery, say I’m getting bulled by a defensive tackle that weighs 340 pounds; I don’t have to think about what I’m doing on the right side. It’s just natural there.”

How was the jump in competition at the Medal of Honor Bowl?

“There were a handful of guys that were a lot better in terms of competition. In D2, guys are either fast or strong. Some of the guys from the big schools are both. I wasn’t shocked, and it wasn’t a huge difference. Out of the 50 guys, there were maybe five that stood out to me. If you can play, the NFL will find you. The guys from D1 just have a bigger platform to get noticed and that helps out, but the NFL will find you.” What are your goals in the near future and competing in your first training camp?

“My goal is to make a roster. Being on a practice squad is fine, but I want to come into a training camp and make an active roster. From there, put in the work to get an opportunity at a starting job.”

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