Under the Radar Players for Pittsburgh Steelers Fans to Watch at Combine


Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

With all of the players that get invited to the combine, it’s hard to pay attention to all of them.  Here is a list of five prospects to keep your eye on this weekend who could impress the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Dri Archer, OW, Kent State

A backfield of Le’Veon Bell and Jonathan Dwyer is the most likely scenario for the Steelers entering the draft.  Dri Archer would be the perfect back to complement them.  Archer is the type of player that the Steelers were looking for when they drafted Chris Rainey.  In the NFL he will constantly be a threat to take the ball to the house whenever he touches it.

Archer had a very successful 2012 season, racking up 1990 yards of total offense and 20 touchdowns.  2013, however, was more than disappointing.  He only totaled 864 yards and 10 touchdowns.  This lack of production was mainly due to injuries, but that could pose a significant question about his durability in the NFL.

At only 5’8″ and 175 pounds Archer may be small, but he is lightning in a bottle.  Expect him to run as fast or faster than any other player at the combine, which could vault him up into the early day 3 conversation.  No matter how he performs at the combine, if he can regain his 2012 form he could become a serious game changer for an NFL team in the future.

Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech

After Dontari Poe wowed at the combine two years ago he ended up as the 11th overall pick in the draft.  Justin Ellis doesn’t have that type of ceiling, and don’t expect a performance up to Poe standards, but Ellis could similarly vault his draft stock.  Ellis is the type of two gap run stuffer that 3-4 teams drool over come draft day.

Over the course of his senior season Ellis racked up 48 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 1 pass defensed.  Although those numbers may not seem too staggering, that is a very good season for a nose tackle.  Granted, he may have been playing against lesser competition most of his career, but he dominated while being surrounded by lesser than stellar talent.  He was the lone target for opposing offensive lines and he still put up solid numbers.

Don’t expect a blazing 40 time or of the charts athleticism, but when Ellis begins the bench press prepare for your jaw to drop.  Expect Ellis to be in the range of 40 reps when he finishes.  A solid bench press performance and adequate numbers in other drills could send Ellis into the day 2 conversation.  If the Steelers don’t take a nose tackle in the first 2 rounds, Ellis would be an ideal target in round 3.

Dexter McDougle, CB, Maryland

Most of you reading this probably haven’t hear of Dexter McDougle.  I don’t fault you.  I hadn’t either until recently.  The reason that you probably haven’t heard of him is because he suffered a season ending shoulder injury in the third game of the season.  The first three games of the season, however, should be enough to give you a picture of his NFL future.  He has been only talked about as a late round selection, but if he has a good combine he could help himself tremendously.

Through the three games of the season that he played McDougle had 14 tackles and 3 interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.  After hearing the stats you’re undoubtedly impressed.  If you watch film of these three games you will, somehow, be more impressed.  McDougle only stands at 5’10”, but he flies around the field making plays.  You hardly ever seen a blown coverage or missed assignment.

If he can put up a good combine and shows that he can fully recover from his shoulder injury, expect his draft stock to go soaring.  Had he not injured his shoulder, I would expect him to be in the 1st round conversation.  If NFL teams are confident that he can make a full recovery, don’t count out him getting his name called early in the 3rd round.

Kain Colter, WR, Northwestern

I know what you’re thinking Steelers Nation, they need a tall receiver not another sub 6′ guy.  You say that and I tell you that size is overrated.  Not only is size overrated, but the Steelers’ system is built around quicker than fast receivers who can get open and create space.  Colter is the picture of that receiver.  He played mostly quarterback at Northwestern, but he has all the skills to succeed at wide receiver.  He has the route running skills and hands that other former quarterbacks turned wide receivers just don’t have, which projects well for him.

It’s hard to judge Colter’s receiving skills by his college film, because he didn’t play much receiver.  However, while watching Senior Bowl practices I was impressed with Colter’s route running skills and hands.

At the combine Colter will no doubt receive questions from NFL teams about his role in Northwestern athletes’ attempt to start an NCAA athlete union.  Eyes will also be on him during the three cone drill and position drills.  If he can display good quickness in the three cone drill, fluid route running, explosiveness in and out of breaks, and soft hands he could see his name firmly in the fourth round discussion.

Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State

Ok, I’m making an exception on the underrated moniker for now.  Once again Steelers Nation, I know what you’re thinking, “2 safeties under 5’10” isn’t a good thing.  Once again I say size is overrated.  Especially when that lack of size doesn’t affect how you play.  Lamarcus Joyner can flat out play.  I would challenge you to find any other defensive back who flies to the ball like Joyner does.  People who throw out comparisons to Troy Polamalu aren’t totally wrong.

During Florida State’s 2013 national championship campaign he racked up 65 tackles, 5 sacks, and 2 interceptions.  Not bad for someone who is “undersized” huh?  Not only does he have impressive stats but he displays good athleticism while doing it.  He flies to the ball, and when he gets there he consistently finishes.  I don’t think it’s too bold of a statement to say that Joyner has the best instincts of any defensive back in the draft.

On college film Joyner doesn’t show elite athleticism, which is why many analysts doubt him as a guaranteed NFL starter.  Be sure to watch Joyner’s 40 yard dash.  He should put up a time in low 4.5’s, but if he can break 4.50 he could become in the first round conversation.  Also pay attention to his vertical jump and three cone drill.  These drills could also have a large impact on his draft stock.  Let’s all hope he has a subpar performance at the combine so he might fall into the third round.

What do you think Steelers Nation?  Would any of these prospects fit with the Steelers?  Who do you think will have a big combine?  Feel free to chime in in the comments section below.