During an interview session at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday (h/t Andy Fenelon of NFL.com), Kent State’s Dri Archer said he was “going to break the record” for the 40-yard dash.
Archer didn’t quite do that Sunday, but he did establish himself as the draft’s fastest offensive skill-position player.
On a day where many running backs and wide receivers ran fast times, Archer led the pack. His 4.26-second 40, per NFL.com, was the only recorded time under 4.3 seconds Sunday.
Archer's first run:
Archer's second run:
|Fastest 40-Yard Dash Times Since 1999|
Archer’s time was .02 seconds slower than Chris Johnson’s record 40 time of 4.24 seconds from the 2008 combine.
|Dri Archer's Combine Numbers|
Overall, Archer's 40 time is the second-fastest since 1999, when the league started recording official numbers.
It wasn't just the 40-yard dash that was impressive, as Archer's numbers were among the top running back performances across the board.
Despite his outstanding athletic measurables, his size could be a limiting factor. At only 5’8” and 173 pounds with 8 7/8” hands, Archer is one of the smallest players at this year’s combine and might not have a natural position in the NFL.
Still, as NFL offenses consistently look to add more speed and big-play ability, Archer’s exceptional combine made sure that someone will take a chance on him.
What Archer Brings to the Table
One could describe Archer as a better athlete than football player, but that’s misleading. Despite his miniscule stature, he is a proven playmaker who compiled 4,980 all-purpose yards over the course of his Golden Flashes career.
A triple threat who can be a runner, receiver and returner, Archer has a shot at a big play any time he has the ball in the open field.
Archer can make defenders miss with his quickness and run away from them with his speed. He has explosive acceleration, terrific lateral quickness and very good field vision.
The concern with Archer, who averaged 10.3 yards per play as a collegiate player, isn't with his playmaking potential, but figuring out how to get him in position to make plays.
What Will Archer Be in the NFL?
The NFL team that decides to take a chance on Archer and his athleticism will need to be creative, for he might not have a true position in the big leagues.
As a runner, Archer lacks the size and power to hold up between the tackles as a pro. Even at Kent State, most of his rushing production came when he had big holes in front of him. In the NFL, he won’t see as many big gaps, so he will likely only be effective as an outside runner.
Archer should be able to make some plays as a scat back and receiver out of the backfield, but his potential to play a third-down role is limited by his lack of blocking ability. He was not asked to block often at Kent State and is likely to be overwhelmed if asked to pass protect against bigger defenders in the NFL.
Though he has similar measurables across the board to 2013 No. 8 overall pick Tavon Austin, he doesn’t project nearly as well as a slot receiver. If he is going to transition to that position, Archer must develop significantly as a route-runner and become much better at catching the ball in his hands.
Archer’s best chance at immediate success might be as a kickoff returner, a capacity in which he led all FBS players in 2012 with 34.76 yards per return, and had four touchdowns in the past two seasons alone.
Where Will Archer Be Drafted?
Archer’s draft stock failed to bloom in his senior season, as he was plagued by an ankle injury and finished the year with only 95 total touches, but his outstanding performance Sunday will almost certainly move him up draft boards.
Ultimately, where Archer gets drafted could depend on how confident teams are that his hands and route-running can improve as a slot receiving threat. His unteachable speed will make teams want to draft him, but his small frame could scare them away.
The best-case scenario for Archer would be that he develops into a Darren Sproles-like complementary running back and slot receiving threat.
Given his potential to add a dynamic skill set to an NFL offense and as a returner, Archer should have a good shot at being a Day 2 draft pick, and it would be surprising if teams let his upside fall much further.
Dan Hope is an NFL/NFL draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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