The Pittsburgh Steelers chose running back / wide receiver Dri Archer in the third round of the 2014 NFL Draft and the first thing that became undeniably clear is Archer is fast, extremely fast.
Archer ( 5-8-173) ran an official time of 4.26 seconds in the 40 yard dash in his first attempt at the NFL Combine. It was the fastest time of the day and nearly broke Chris Johnson’s all-time combine record of 4.24 .
Having speed does not exactly mean your a sure thing when it comes to making it in the NFL.The Steelers can attest to this fact having drafted fast players in the past that never made the grade when it came to the NFL.
However, Dri Archer has shown so far that he is more than just a fast guy.He is a football player that happens to have great speed.
He started 21-of-47 games at Kent State.During his Kent State career he totaled 2,342 yards with 24 touchdowns on 325 carries (7.21 ypc). He had 99 catches for 1,194 yards (12.06 ypc) and 12 touchdowns receiving.
Archer also excelled on special teams returning 51 kickoffs for 1,436 yards and four touchdowns. He had a career 4,980 all-purpose yards, an average of 105.96 yards per game, and recorded a total of 40 touchdowns and scored 240 points. Archer also completed a 24-yard pass for a score.
The question remains can Archer’s speed and skill set carry over at the NFL level?
So far reports have been positive starting with offensive coordinator Todd Haley…
Todd Haley: “Dri is a unique guy because he’s not really a running back, and he’s not really a receiver. He can do both. He’s a really smart guy who’s fast, clearly the fastest guy whenever we’re out on the field. He is a rookie, so we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but he looks like a guy who will be a very good change of pace at the running back position, much different from Le’Veon and LeGarrette Blount. And he’ll definitely be a speed factor at the receiver position.”
Steelers’ Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger spoke recently after an OTA practice about Archer and his progress so far…
Ben Roethlisberger: “He caught a lot of balls out of the backfield and beat a lot of guys to the end zone. So, I like what I see so far and am excited to kind of see him grow and get better, and put pads on and see what he can do.We’ll give him the whole playbook, but expect him to know certain packages, certain routs and things that we’ll utilize him in. Red zone type things. Utilize his size and speed, and kind of see what he can do from there.”
Archer has been attending both running back and wide receiver meetings but the biggest area he may contribute this season might be on special teams as a returner. There have been reports that he has been fielding both punt and kick returns in practice.
Dri Archer was an elite returner during his college career and Steelers’ General Manager Kevin Colbert has compared him to longtime NFL great returner Mel Gray .
Archer’s versatility should be a great asset to the Steelers offense and a problem for opposing defenses. Will he line up at wide receiver or running back? With the speed Archer possesses defenses will have to take this into account.
The Pittsburgh Steelers and offensive coordinator Todd Haley are hoping that Archer becomes their X factor with the ability to make big plays in the running game, receiving game and the return game.
In the end, the key to how fast Dri Archer contributes these game changing plays will depend on his speed… in learning the Steelers playbook.