With their third round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted the speedy 5-foot-8, 173 pound dynamo of a running back in Dri Archer. Turning the NFL Combine on fire with his blistering 40-yard dash time of 4.26, the second-fastest time since the NFL began measuring times in 1999, and milliseconds from breaking running back Chris Johnson’s combine record of 4.24 seconds. Obviously blessed with world class speed, he was drafted to be an offensive “splash player” as Mike Tomlin likes to call them, capable of breaking the game wide open in the blink of an eye.
Coming out of Kent State, he was a jack-of-all-trades type of weapon, an offensive force who racked up 854 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns as a senior. Those numbers paled in comparison to a junior campaing which saw him post 1,429 yards on the ground and 23 total touchdowns.
“Some of the guys that remind me of him are Tavon Austin, Dexter McCluster and Ace Sanders,” draft guru Mike Mayock said. “He’s a speed guy, but at 173 pounds there aren’t a lot of guys like that in the NFL.”
In the preseason, Archer showed great potential, posting several big plays, but more importantly, gaining the respect of the defenses by taking attention away from Antonio Brown. In the regular season, he was almost nonexistent. His season stats were ten carries for 40 yards, seven catches for 23 yards, and nine kickoffs returned for 161 yards. His explosive return ability was a known forte of his coming out of college, and it was nowhere to be seen. The blame can be placed on the NFL rules regarding kickoffs, but it’s very important the team find ways to better utilize Archer this offseason.
It can also be argued that his draft status will never be matched by his potential. The next several picks following Archer could have arguably had a greater impact with the team. A name that sticks out is cornerback Bashaud Breeland of the Washington Redskins. When DeAngelo Hall suffered a torn Achilles early in the year, it was Breeland who was inserted into the starting lineup, and he came through in a big way. He posted 71 tackles, 17 passes defensed and 2 interceptions. He was recently nominated to the 2014 NFL All-Rookie team of Gil Brandt, an esteemed NFL media senior analyst at NFL.com.
With the promising Breeland in the fold, the team could potentially go elsewhere with it’s 1st Round pick in the upcoming draft, instead of being pigeon-holed into drafting a cornerback first, according to many draft pundits.
The diminutive Archer offers next to nothing in pass protection, as his 173 pounds wouldn’t stand a chance against most cornerbacks, let alone Terrell Suggs or Justin Houston coming off the edges. With almost nothing to show for it, and finding a reliable backup option to Le’Veon Bell a must, the Archer pick is looking more and more like a luxury pick. In other words, it was a pick maybe the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks could’ve made, with no glaring roster holes. But a team coming off consecutive 8-8 seasons cannot waste such a high round pick on a luxury instead of a necessity. unless the team can find more and more ways to put the offensive spark plug in space in 2015, the front office may be kicking itself looking back, when it could’ve filled other needs instead of a “reach.”