Sometimes, a player is just too good to pass up. Running back was hardly a top-three need for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They already have Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount on the roster. Nevertheless, when the Steelers went on the clock in the third round, they saw an athlete who was just too good to pass up.
You can coach a lot of things into a player. However, speed is one thing that a player either has or doesn’t.
Kent State running back Dri Archer is among the most explosive football players in the entire country. He’s slight at only 5’8” and 175 pounds, but when you are as quick and shifty as he is, you rarely take a big hit. During his college career, he displayed a very complete game. I invite everyone to go back and watch him in 2012.
He was a genuine triple-threat as a runner, receiver and kick returner. With very little talent around him, he was given the opportunity to rack up 1,990 yards from scrimmage as well as 591 kickoff return yards. It’s hard to imagine Archer getting 214 touches a season like he did at Kent State, but what can we expect?
If we are talking about comparing him to current players, the speculation is broad. Maybe he’s Dexter McCluster. Or maybe he’s more like Tavon Austin. I tend to share the opinion of ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. in his comparison, which Steelers.com writer Bob Labriola shared via Twitter:
It's a fast RB-WR-KR. Dri Archer ran a 4.26 in the 40 at the Combine. One of the few faster than Shazier. Kiper says he's Darren Sproles— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) May 10, 2014
If the Steelers can get Darren Sproles-like production out of Archer, this pick would be historic in terms of value. The key for how Pittsburgh utilizes Archer is in keeping him healthy. He’s lighter than Sproles and cannot take the same kind of physical punishment.
The best way to use Archer’s gifts is to get him in space. Whether that means having him come out of the backfield on wheel routes, screens or jet sweeps, the key is to keep him clean. He is too slight to take a pounding on inside runs. No, the best way to use him is to get him in the open field where his agility and explosion are elite.
No one is going to ask Archer to carry the ball 15 times in a game. If they do, there is something terribly wrong. However, don’t be shocked if a game or two per year, he is the star of the show. During his time in college, he was very much a momentum type of player. The Steelers staff will ease him into the offense but won’t hesitate to feed him the football when he has the hot hand.
In the final analysis, this is another great pick in what is shaping up to be a fantastic draft. The Steelers could have gone several directions here, but once again they went with the best player on the board. It is apparent the movement to become a faster football team is serious. Adding the fastest player in the entire draft is just another piece of that puzzle.