Kent State running back Dri Archer is a very fast man. He ran a 4.26 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, the second-fastest time in the recorded history of the event. It's really easy for NFL teams to be blinded by, uh, blinding speed (Oakland Raiders fans stand up!), but will Archer's size and other question marks hold back his pro potential?
Archer's career really will be remembered for his explosive play his junior season. He rushed for nearly 1,500 yards on just 159 attempts, good for an average of 9.0 yards per carry, while scoring 23 total touchdowns. He earned consensus All-American honors as well as the award for MAC Special Teams Player of the Year for his stellar play in 2012.
His senior season was marked with injury, limiting him to "only" 7.6 YPC and almost 1,000 all-purpose yards for the year. He ended his career ranking in the top-three in both career touchdowns and all-purpose yards in school history, numbers that seem all the more impressive considering he didn't get extensive playing time until his junior campaign.
The positives about Archer's game are obvious. In addition to his 40 time at the combine, he's also among the position leaders for the vertical jump, three cone drill, and 20-yard shuttle. The numbers are there for Archer and the tape is there as well. It can't be said enough: he is fast. Archer has the kind of speed that teams drool over, and he certainly has the speed, quickness, and agility to be an elite weapon at the next level. Via ESPN's draft profile (Insider req'd):
"Legitimate homerun threat every touch. Elite lateral agility and stop-start ability. Slashes through small creases and frequently makes defender miss in the hole. Accelerates off plant foot. Makes sharp cuts and presses cutback lane in a hurry."
Despite that, he does certainly have some possible issues with his game. A big knock on him right now is his size. Archer experienced the aforementioned durability issues his senior season and, at 5'8" and 175 pounds, those problems won't go away. Take a look at a few of the smallest running backs in the league right now: Ray Rice, who matches Archer's height, is a solid 218 pounds; Maurice Jones-Drew, who has had durability concerns of his own, is an inch shorter yet still weighs in at 210 points; and Darren Sproles is a diminutive 5'6", yet even his 190 pounds is more than Archer.
A player of Archer's size really needs to be pretty solid to withstand the impact of NFL hits. His lack of size and strength is definitely something that talent evaluators are worried about:
"Runs hard and will flash some initial pop once momentum is built. But a pint-sized, narrow-based runner with marginal power. Skinny legs, lacks lower-body strength and goes down too easily." (ESPN)
"Very short and rail thin with no strength or running power. Not a tackle-breaker and goes down easy on contact. Limited inside runner." (NFL.com)
Especially with the way running backs are cycled through in today's NFL, Archer's durability is a pretty big concern and, with that, ball security will also be an inevitable issue. If he's taking hits harder because he isn't strong enough, how can he hold on to the ball well enough to succeed?
Despite all of that, Archer is still obviously a very intriguing prospect. Guys with this sort of speed don't come along very often and, if you want to use the term "lottery ticket" to describe a runner in this year's draft class, this is the guy you're looking for. If he bulks up a little more without compromising his game-breaking speed, he can really become a devastatingly explosive player in the NFL.
According to Pro Football Talk, Archer has had workouts with the following teams: Arizona Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, and New England Patriots. Also, SB Nation's Gang Green Nation has said that Archer was brought in by the Jets for a visit, although their signing of former Tennessee Titans RB Chris Johnson seems to negate their interest. Regardless, you'll hear his name called at some point during the draft, probably in the middle rounds.