It’s not that he has a problem with Chris Rainey or would be insulted to be compared to him. According to Ed Bouchette, new Pittsburgh Steelers running back Dri Archer simply doesn’t see all the similarities between himself and the former 2012 draft pick.
For starters, although they are of similar stature, Archer is certainly the stronger of the two. Basing each tally on Combine figures, Archer managed to bench press 225 pounds for 20 reps, while Rainey completed 16, the second-worst of his class.
The difference in strength is far more visual, however, on the field. Two years ago, when Rainey was on the field, it was almost a given that he would go down on first contact if he couldn’t run by the defender. That will not be the case with Archer, who has shown during college and already in training camp that he can absorb a hit and keep his feet.
Though both were primarily running backs during their college careers, Archer certainly seems to be the better prepared of the two to further that role on the professional level. He’s also a significantly more accomplished route runner as a receiver than Rainey was, which makes him more versatile and less of a red flag whenever he’s on the field.
Versatility is a role that the rookie back embraces, as well—even though he’s seemingly held out of just about every blocking drill by the coaches. “Being a versatile player, I can do a lot”, he said. “Whatever they need me to do, I can do it—return game, running back, receiver, outside receiver, slot receiver, fullback”.
Perhaps he can lineup in the fullback spot, but don’t expect him to be serving as a lead blocker very often in this offense.
One person who didn’t hesitate to bring up Rainey’s name when discussing Archer is the man who brought both of them in, head coach Mike Tomlin.
We’ve had Dri in many forms over the years, to be honest with you. In 2010, it was Antonio Brown. It was Stefan Logan. It was Chris Rainey. Sometimes they’re wide outs, sometimes they’re running backs. The bottom line is that they’re space football players, and we try to get the ball in their hands. Obviously some have grown and developed into other things, like Antonio Brown is an All-Pro caliber receiver. But we’ve had Dri Archer in many forms over the last several years, or the better part of my time here. We’ll see what he develops into.
One thing they’ve never had is the sheer speed that Archer brings, which surely has been among the rarest commodities in the NFL. His 4.26 40-yard dash was the fastest of his draft class, and among the fastest in Combine history.
It makes Rainey’s 4.45 time seem pedestrian in comparison. After all, the Steelers just drafted a linebacker who set a faster time. And one more thing about Archer’s speed that was never quite as true about Rainey: it’s obvious on the field. In that department, there is certainly no comparison.