NFL Draft: dri archer

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PITTSBURGH -- A wrap-up of the Pittsburgh Steelers' draft. Click here for a full list of Steelers draftees.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame
AP Photo/Frank Franklin IIThe Steelers expect big things from Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt.
Best move: Taking Notre Dame defensive lineman Stephon Tuitt in the second round. The Steelers had no bigger need than at defensive end, and they were smart to pounce on Tuitt, who had been widely projected to go late in the first round. The 6-foot-5, 303-pounder has the ideal build for a five-technique defensive end, and he also has the pass-rushing skills to move inside when the Steelers go to their nickel package. Tuitt had 21 career sacks at Notre Dame, and the Steelers are convinced his play slipped last season because recovery from double-hernia surgery compromised his training and caused him to put on too much weight. Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said Tuitt is back to his 2012 playing weight when he dominated for the Fighting Irish, and they expect him to play significantly as a rookie if not start at some point in 2014.

Riskiest move: The Steelers took just one defensive back in the draft and they didn’t select cornerback Shaquille Richardson of Arizona until the fifth round. That won’t do anything to allay the anxiety of Steelers’ fans about the state of the secondary and specifically cornerback where Ike Taylor isn’t getting younger and where there isn’t much depth. Steelers defensive backs coach Carnell Lake said he is confident free-agent signee Brice McCain and Antwon Blake, who played almost exclusively on special teams last season, can be key contributors this season. They better be since the draft didn’t deliver the reinforcements at cornerback that most thought it would.

Most surprising move: The Steelers bypassed a cornerback and wide receiver in the third round to take speedy but diminutive running back Dri Archer. This looks like a luxury pick since the Steelers had more pressing needs when they selected the 5-8, 173-pounder. Archer ran the fastest 40-yard dash time (4.26 seconds) at the NFL combine, and the Steelers plan to carve out a role for him in the offense. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has compared Archer to Darren Sproles because of his explosiveness and versatility. Steelers wide receivers coach Richard Mann said Archer reminds him of former Browns scatback/receiver Gerald “Ice Cube” McNeil. “He’s not small,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “He’s short.”

File it away: First-round pick Ryan Shazier will be an immediate difference-maker as a rookie -- and will make multiple Pro Bowls if he stays healthy. His speed is such that defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has said he envisions playing Shazier all over the field. Lake said he will gladly take Shazier as a safety if linebackers coach Keith Butler doesn’t want him. Butler, when told that, smiled and said “I’m not in favor of doing that. Shazier can make mistakes and has make-up speed to get back into position and make plays.” Butler scoffs at the notion that the 6-1, 237-pound Shazier is undersized for an inside linebacker at this level. Butler said former Steelers inside linebacker James Farrior played between 225 and 230 pounds in the latter part of his carer, including 2010 when he made the Pro Bowl. “A lot of times young linebackers get in their head, ‘I have to weigh 250 or I have to weigh 260 [pounds] but can they move? Can they get where they need to be when they need to be there? This guy can do that.”

Beckham leads 2014 All-Satellite team 

April, 28, 2014
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Odell Beckham Jr.AP Photo/Rogelio V. SolisOdell Beckham Jr. could do double duty in the NFL as a wide receiver and return specialist.
One of the projects I put together every year for the draft is the All-Satellite team -- the players who are the best in space. All eight of the guys listed below are exceptionally elusive with the ball in their hands and can be nightmares for opposing defenses to contain in the open field.

You can find my list from the end of the 2013 college football season here -- but below you'll find my eight-member All-Satellite team based on all the prospects I've evaluated for the 2014 NFL draft.

1. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
Beckham has elite top-end speed, but that's only part of what makes him so good in space. He accelerates quickly, frequently makes the first defender miss after the catch and is a very instinctive open-field runner who knows when to cut back against the grain. He uses his fluid hips and quick feet to get defenders off-balance in space, using a variety of shoulder dips, inside-outs and other moves. He has the potential to develop into a dangerous return specialist in the NFL.
After parting ways with Darren Sproles and Lance Moore this offseason, the New Orleans Saints no longer have any experienced punt returners on the roster.

Third-year running back Travaris Cadet has shown some ability as a kickoff returner over the past two years, and the Saints may try him out in the punt-return job, as well. Or they might make a kick returner a priority in the draft.

New Orleans could certainly use some more juice in their return game after being middle-of-the-road in that area in recent years, even when Sproles was around.

The Saints could go one of two routes in the draft. They could target a top wide receiver that is capable of playing a dual role, or they could snag one of the top pure returners in the middle or later rounds.

If they choose the first route, three receivers could potentially fit the bill in Round 1: LSU's Odell Beckham Jr., USC's Marqise Lee and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks. All three of those prospects would be worthy of the Saints' pick at No. 27 based on their receiving ability alone, since a big-play receiver ranks among New Orleans' top needs.

Of those three, only Beckham was a standout punt returner in college, averaging more than nine yards per return over his final two seasons, with two touchdown returns in 2012. Cooks was a part-time punt returner last year, while Lee was more of a kickoff return specialist with two career kickoff returns for touchdowns.

Later in the draft, ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said there are two players that stand out above all others as the best return men in this year's class -- Kent State's Dri Archer and Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas.

"Those are the two guys who jump out. Tremendous versatility," Kiper said. "I also think John Brown is an underrated guy, a sleeper type out of Pittsburgh State. Returned punts, kicks, did a great job, also caught the ball very well, was explosive."

All three of those dual runner/receiver types could also serve as some fun new toys for Saints coach Sean Payton to work with on offense now that Sproles is gone.

Thomas (5-foot-9, 174 pounds) is the most well-known of the bunch, having starred as an all-purpose threat for the Ducks for three years. Thomas scored 18 touchdowns in both 2011 and 2012 (including at least one rushing TD, receiving TD, kickoff return TD and punt return TD during his sophomore year). He battled an ankle injury last year and finished with only 11 total touchdowns.

Thomas ran a surprisingly "slow" 40-yard dash time of 4.50 seconds at the NFL scouting combine but bounced back with a reported time of 4.39 at Oregon's pro day.

Archer, meanwhile, dropped jaws with his time of 4.26 seconds at the combine -- one of the fastest in history. The 5-foot-8, 173-pounder was mostly a kickoff returner in college but could potentially do both in the pros. Like Thomas, he had his best year in 2012 with 23 total touchdowns before an ankle injury limited him to 11 total touchdowns as a senior.

Brown (5-foot-10, 179) had three punt return touchdowns and two kickoff return touchdowns in his career, while also serving as one of Division II's top wide receivers. He caught 61 passes for 1,198 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. He ran the 40 in 4.34 seconds at the combine.

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