On Dri Archer’s Role And Its Draft Implications

It wasn’t long before Dri Archer became one of the most controversial draft picks for the Pittsburgh Steelers in recent years—rivaled in discussion perhaps only by Jarvis Jones and Landry Jones.

In a draft that was widely considered to be critical, the Steelers used their third-round compensatory draft pick to select the 5’8”, 173 lbs. scat back with the 97th overall pick, in a move that many at best accepted as a luxury.

The truth is that Archer likely underperformed even his doubters’ expectations, but it goes without saying that his anemic statistics were directly tied to his lack of playing time. Behind All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell, offensive coordinator Todd Haley acknowledged recently that it was hard to get him on the field.

Archer, too, admitted after the season that he still has some catching up to do when it comes to adjusting to the pace of the game at the professional level, which has not allowed him to fully utilize his 4.2 speed, and contributed to him losing his kick return job early on.

The second-year player also happens to be the only non-offensive lineman on the roster to be given the slash in his official position designation, as the Steelers regard him as both a running back and a wide receiver.

Utilizing Pro Football Focus’ snap breakdown, Archer saw 10 out of 51 running plays during the regular season, while 36 came as a wide receiver. Those numbers skewed dramatically in the Steelers’ postseason loss, as 30 of his 31 snaps featured him as a wide receiver target.

After Archer was first drafted, head coach Mike Tomlin boasted about the fact that he had the rookie splitting time between the running backs and wide receivers meeting room, intending to keep it that way until the rookie showed that he couldn’t handle it, but that time never came.

I wonder, though, if the team might not try to favor Archer toward one room over the other in his second year, if at least to help get him off the ground, get some positive plays under his belt, and improve his confidence as a potential playmaker.

And I wonder if that might not affect their approach in the draft, or if the opposite should take place. For example, if they deem Archer as a potential fourth or fifth option as a wide receiver, do they wait later to draft one, if at all? If they view him more as a running back, will they draft one at all, or later than normal?

Or perhaps they will approach both positions in the draft paying no mind to Archer’s swing vote in both columns, and determine which role best suits the team to place him in based on what they come away with in the draft.

Regardless of what might happen, it’s certainly the case that Archer has to improve in order to help the Steelers this season, no matter what role that may take, be it running back, wide receiver, kick returner, or, ideally, a combination of the three.

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