With the 97th pick in the 2014 NFL Draft the Pittsburgh Steelers selected Dri Archer in the third round. Archer, a running back, slot, kick returner out of Kent State is widely considered one of the most athletically gifted players in this year's Draft class. His lack of size have raised some questions about his ability to succeed at the NFL level, but with the Steelers he factors to be an important multi-use weapon in the offensive attack.
In college, at Kent State, after seeing the field in limited roles his first two seasons in Kent, Ohio, and redshirting in 2011, Archer burst onto the scene in an All-American performance of a junior season. The 5-foot-8 Laurel, Florida native scored 24 total touchdowns in 2012, 16 rushing, four receiving, three on returns and one passing. His 2,605 total yards earned him spots on the Associated Press, Sporting News, ESPN, Walter Camp and Phil Steele All-American teams. 1,429 of those yards came on the ground, with an astonishing 9 yards per carry average.
Unfortunately an ankle injury in Week 1 of the 2013 season severely hampered his follow up season. He missed two of the first four games of the season, and was used sparingly in others. Still, when he was healthy, he was dazzling. He still managed to rack up nearly 1,000 yards of total offense, despite touching the ball 122 fewer times.
Durability is an issue for Archer. His slight frame—5-foot-8, 175 pounds at the Combine—aren't indicative of an NFL career. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for in raw athleticism and playmaking ability. Archer dazzled at the combine where he ran the second fastest 40-yard-dash in the event's history, 4.26 seconds. But that's a whole .05 seconds off from his personal best.
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Scouting Dri Archer
Archer is one of the most dynamic playmakers the Mid-American Conference (home to such multidimensional stars as Jordan Lynch, Julian Edelman and Josh Cribbs) has ever seen, and maybe the fastest guy in the NFL.
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ARM LENGTH: 31''
40 YARD DASH: 4.26 sec
20 YARD SHUTTLE: 4.06 sec
BENCH PRESS: 20 reps
BROAD JUMP: 122''
What's amazing about Archer is despite being short in stature, he can run like an Olympic sprinter. He ran his 40 yard dash at the Combine in the same number of strides it took 6-foot-5 Lions receiver Calvin Johnson to do it: 18 steps, an NFL Combine record. To say Archer glides across the field is not hyperbole. When people talk about players having "breakaway speed" Archer is the type of player that comes to mind. Imagine Devin Hester, but faster, and more versatile.
But he doesn't just get by on his speed alone. Archer possess excellent field vision, making him incredibly dangerous if he can get past the front seven. His agility, and hands are at an elite level too. He can pluck balls out of the air with a soft, but precise touch. Archer is also incredibly strong pound-for-pound. He tied Jadeveon Clowney's 20 reps of 225 on the bench press at the Combine. He can hit the holes, even if he can't be an every down back.
Archer is also deadly in the return game. A first team All-American returner in 2012, Archer managed to return three kicks for touchdowns despite routinely being kicked away from. In space, he's creative and combined with his elite speed and agility becomes near impossible to catch. However, if he is caught, Archer is not a guy known for breaking tackles.
His size is an issue because he can be knocked around, despite possessing great pound-for-pound strength. While he does have NFL receiver quality hands, in traffic he isn't able to secure the ball as well. However, Archer has proven people wrong before. The 2 star prospect wasn't considered good enough by 124 FBS teams, with Kent State being his only offer, and he parlayed that into an All-American career, and now an NFL career.
Expect him to make an immediate impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers special teams game, and maybe even give opposing defenses fits this year.