NFL

Get to Know NFL Draft Sleeper Sean Riley Jr.

After a four year career at Syracuse, wide receiver and return man Sean Riley Jr. has his sights set on the NFL.

The former Orange standout has gone through a massive body transformation in preparation for the draft, which at this point is less than a week away.

“The NFL was something I’ve dreamed about my whole life, so just went hard in the paint for about two months,” Riley said. “I was able to change my body a lot. Thanks to Grossetti Performance in Pittsburgh, they got me right.”

Standing at 5-foot-8 and about 180 pounds, Riley is an explosive player from the slot but really excels as a return man. In his four years at Syracuse, Riley accumulated 2,433 kick return yards, which stands alone at the top of the school’s all-time leaderboards. As a punt returner he 563 yards, which while not No. 1 was still in the top-10 in school history.

“It just shows that that was something I also took very serious, not just my receiving,” Riley said. “It showed that I’m a versatile player, and it’s something I can take to the next level.”

In a mock pro day, Riley put up some stunning (unofficial) numbers, most impressive of which being his 20-yard shuttle and L-Drill (three-cone drill).

His three-cone was timed at 6.41 seconds, which would have been the fastest of any player at the combine this year. Not only that, but it would have been the fastest three-cone at the combine since at least 2006, the farthest back the official combine database on NFL.com goes. Of all players that attended the combine in that timeframe, only cornerback Jordan Thomas in 2018 had a faster one, clocking in at 6.28 seconds.

His 20-yard shuttle clocked in at 3.99 seconds, which would have been the fastest by any wide receiver at the combine and second fastest of all players. Of wide receivers, it would have been the fastest since Amari Cooper clocked in a 3.98 in 2015.

Some are even calling him the next Tavon Austin.

“I honestly don’t like to compare myself to anybody really, I just like to be myself, but that’s a good comparison,” Riley said. “Tavon Austin had a great college career, very popular college athlete. And we do have some of the same attributes, so I think that’s really cool.

Austin finished his four years at West Virginia with 2,407 kick return yards and 433 punt return yards to go along with his 4,446 yards from scrimmage.

While Riley doesn’t boast the same resume on the offensive side of the ball, he still had 1,265 receiving yards over his four years, including three 100-plus yard games in 2018.

However, with the splits that Riley has – a 40-yard dash time of 4.42 (0.1 slower than Austin) to go along with the aforementioned 20-yard shuttle (0.02 faster than Austin) and three-cone (Austin did not participate) – there’s no reason to think he couldn’t be similarly effective if utilized the right way, especially with his off-the-charts agility.

Riley also had a vertical jump of 35 inches, a broad jump of 117 inches and recorded 15 reps on the bench press.

“I feel like I’m a consistent playmaker,” Riley said. “When you need a play I feel like I’m the guy to go to. I made a lot of third-down plays. I just feel like I’m consistent in the slot and I feel like I’m very explosive.”

 

Austin, now a seven-year NFL vet, has been a jack-of-all-trades in his career, racking up 2,000-plus receiving yards, 1,300-plus rushing yards, 1,400-plus punt return yards and 400+ kick return yards.

Riley said that he has spoken to at least 16 teams who have expressed interest in bringing him on and believes that the Chiefs, Patriots, Broncos and Bills are higher on him than others. He knows how he can fit into his expected role and be an impact player right away.

“Playing special teams, kick returner, punt returner,” Riley said. “I feel like I can come in and be a day-one starter at those jobs. I feel like a lot of teams have those established receivers already on their team, but I’m definitely coming in to compete and take someone’s job. That’s something I’m probably going to have to work my way into, but me being a really good return man I feel like will put me on the field right away.”

If he ends up on your team, here’s what he can bring, in his own words.

“You’re going to get a very versatile player, a guy that’s going to come in and work hard,” Riley said. “…I just feel like I’m a very exciting player, you’re going to get a consistent player, just a guy who’s going to work hard every day.”

It’s not just versatility of play, but going to Syracuse from Los Angeles, he’s developed an ability to play in any climate.

“I’m used to it now,” Riley said. “I feel like It was good for me to experience both this hot weather and the cold, so I can really play in anything.”

With the draft commencing on Thursday, April 23, it’s almost time to see if what Riley has dreamed of will become a reality. However, due to the current state of the world, it’s been a much different atmosphere heading into what is bound to be one of the most important weekends of his life.

“I’ve been blessed to have a cousin who has a gym, just kinda been working out every day, and quarantining,” Riley said.

And while the draft is around the corner, that doesn’t mean it’s time to ease up on the throttle.

“Every day it’s getting closer, it’s exciting, I can’t wait for it, but I’m just still training really hard, cause you know, right after the draft, it’s go time. We’re about to be in camp soon, so, it’s pretty exciting.”

Football has been Riley’s life. With a dad who played six seasons in the Arena Football League and even spent time on the New York Giants roster, it’s in his blood.

However, it’s not just football he’s learned, it’s also character.

“I feel like I’m a good person you know,” Riley said. “I’ve got a solid background, I’ve got a good support system. I just feel like I’m a good guy to be around – not only a football person but you want to be a good guy and a good leader.”

Kick returner, punt returner, slot receiver — Sean Riley can do a lot. Now, it’s just a waiting game.

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