No player personifies the idea of MACtion like Kent State’s Dri Archer. The Florida born speedster was extremely undersized but has proven at Kent just how dangerous he can be not unlike Tavon Austin at West Virginia, with incredible production as a running back, receiver, and on special teams. Archer has been electric with the ball in his hands averaging just over 10 yards on 198 offensive touches for 1,990 yards and 20 touchdowns with another three touchdowns on 17 kick returns as a junior. He has plenty of experience lining up in the backfield but does have experience lining up as a receiver in the slot because of the presence of fellow running back Trayvion Durham, a player worth keeping an eye on in his own right. He had 1,300 yards in his own right and his ability as a power back enabled the Golden Flashes to move Archer around in their offense and create mismatches. Archer has significant potential as a receiving threat but is still raw in that area. He has the potential to be a versatile weapon for an NFL offense and there might not be anyone in college football this year rooting harder for players like Austin and Kenjon Barner to have big years as their success could benefit how teams view him. Archer can play as a scat back with incredible speed and agility in space as is, but if he continues to develop, he can also contribute as a slot receiver and a punt returner in addition to being able to return kicks and that kind of versatility could see Archer sneak into the second day of the draft.
Vitals & Build
Archer is currently listed at just 5’8” 164lbs which is tiny by NFL standards and he will need to find a way to put more weight on his frame, but he has time to do it. He has incredible speed and agility that makes him difficult to track down but he is going to have to prove he can survive the NFL as all players his size do. While he is not likely to get much bigger in the NFL, he can hopefully at least get close to the 175lb mark.
Archer is a speed back with great agility, the ability to cut, stop and start and make guys miss in the open field almost at will. He has demonstrated impressive vision and a great feel for what is going on around him, even behind him as a runner. Archer has elite quickness and what he does goes beyond simply being elusive. He is extremely difficult to track down. While he is not a guy who is going to break many tackles from guys who can get two hands on him, he will break arm tackles of guys trying to grab anything in hopes of slowing him down.
Archer demonstrates good balance and reacts well off of contact, being able to adjust and continue running effectively after shaking a mediocre tackling effort. Archer is a player who is always a threat to score with great acceleration and a ton of speed. Archer is not simply fast for a player in the MAC; he is fast, period and can run with anyone as one of the fastest players in all of college football.
Archer trusts what he sees and is a patient runner willing to wait for holes to present themselves but when he goes, he is decisive and attacks the hole full speed. He is not afraid to run in between the tackles but has a disadvantage there because of his size, which could be an issue in the NFL, and while teams can run him there to keep defenses honest, he is a much bigger threat on the outside and in space. Archer is not afraid to use moves or make a move anywhere on the field, even in the middle of a pile, which can be a great quality behind good run blocking who block through the whistle. He has the Barry Sanders quality of being able to confuse his own lineman and cause his teammates to hold at times because he is so unpredictable in how he runs. Archer is not afraid to go backwards and cut back on occasion but for the most part, he does a good job of being smart and having good instincts on what he can get away with and what he cannot. He has a good sense of anticipation and where pressure is going to be coming from and can set up defensive players who are several yards in front of him and beat them without ever really having to beat them in addition to making good use of his blockers. Lastly, Archer is a guy who is not down until the whistle blows and there have been multiple examples where defenders assumed he was down, let up, and he kept going to score a touchdown. His height is an advantage there as he is close to the ground, has a low center of gravity, and great body control in addition to the fact he can hide behind his linemen at times.
Touches are going to be a key issue with Archer and how many he can get as a running back will be important. Archer has had as many as 18 carries in one game but Kent State’s coaching staff has been smart about not overworking him and keeping him healthy and effective; again, Trayvion Durham is a big reason this is possible. This will be a key in the NFL as well.
Route Running & Technique
Kent State under Darrell Hazell (Now the Head Coach for Purdue) was not afraid to be aggressive with the routes they had Archer run. From attacking deep down the middle of the field to running angle type routes to screens and swing passes, Archer has run a varied route tree. He is not as crisp in his route running as he should be mostly due to how raw he is. With his feet, agility and precision, he has the potential to be impossible to cover by linebackers and be a guy teams have to cover with a corner. He is simply too fast for most defensive players and as he gets better at running routes, he will only play even faster and create more separation.
Archer is a little raw and inexperienced here. It stands to reason he does not have the biggest hands in the world but he is not overly comfortable as a pass catcher yet and will drop balls he should not. When he catches the ball, he makes the transition from pass catcher to run after the catch smoothly and is able to start doing damage after the catch quickly. Because of his diminutive size, it is difficult to get him in the ball in any kind of traffic because he can be blocked out relatively easily. He will catch passes with his body and his catch radius is small at this point.
Kent State’s quarterback situation has not exactly been great in terms of a pure passer and it will definitely be interesting to see if this area can improve so that Archer gets more opportunities in games for receptions but this is an area he should be working on during the offseason as well.
Run After Catch
When he catches the football, he does it smoothly and efficiently, so everything that could be said about him as a runner in the open field also apply here. He has the ability to take a short pass and take it all the way with his ability as an open field runner. Whether a screen, a slant or a swing pass, if he is not corralled quickly, he can do some serious damage to the defense.
Archer has shown to be an incredible kick returner with three touchdowns on just seventeen returns this past year averaging almost 35 yards per return. Whoever drafts him will certainly want to use him there but with the rule changes on kickoffs that make it so much easier to get touchbacks, it hurts his ability to make an impact there. He has not really done much with punt returns yet but with his agility and ability to make guys miss with breakaway speed, this is something he should make a serious effort in learning. If he can contribute there, it is just another area he can contribute for a team and potentially put up points.
Archer can play in any system as far as the offense goes, but his best fit is with an offensive coordinator who is creative and will find ways to get Archer the ball. Archer is a guy who is going to need his touches monitored and 10-15 touches per game is probably going to be ideal for him in the NFL; around 7-10 as a runner and 3-5 as a returner/receiver would be ideal. With the wrong team, Archer is probably nothing more than a rotational back and returner. With the right system and with his development as a receiver, he can play as a slot receiver, an H-back and someone that can be used as a motion man either to get him the ball or to be a decoy who draws attention and opens up opportunities for his teammates. If he makes the proper improvements as a pass catcher, his limits are only touches and his playcallers’s imagination which is exactly what happened last year; Coach Hazell found a ton of different ways to get him the football and he was one of the most productive players in the country despite a mediocre overall passing attack.
|Thu, Aug. 29||vs. Liberty|
|Sat, Sept. 7||vs. Bowling Green|
|Sat, Sept. 14||at LSU|
|Sat, Sept. 21||at Penn State|
|Sat, Sept. 28||at Western Michigan|
|Sat, Oct. 5||vs Northern Illinois|
|Sat, Oct. 12||at Ball State|
|Sat, Oct. 19||at South Alabama|
|Sat, Oct. 26||vs Buffalo|
|Sat, Nov. 2||vs Akron|
|Wed, Nov 13||vs Miami(OH)|
|Sat, Nov. 19||at Ohio|
Two early road games jump out on Kent State’s schedule; LSU and Penn State. These are both big opportunities for Archer to prove he can make plays against bigger conference opponents, fairly or not. If he can have a big impact on these games, even if they lose, it could have a significant boost to his stock. For the MAC schedule, the game with Northern Illinois is one that should be a good test. The MAC is known for putting up a ton of points in games that resemble backyard football but the Huskies have had the best defense in recent years and are returning a large number of their players on that side of the ball. Kent State should qualify for another bowl game this year and that would be one more opportunity for Archer to impress teams and scouts before he finishes his career with the Golden Flashes.
The player that comes to mind with Archer is former Texas Longhorn Eric Metcalf. Physically, these two are built differently (Metcalf was 5’10″ and about 188lbs), but in terms of what they can do on a football field and how they do it, they are quite similar. Both players are dynamic returners on special teams and have game breaking ability. On the offensive side of the ball, both guys have the ability to score on any given play, but neither guy should be doing much in between the tackles. When Metcalf went to the Falcons, he transitioned from halfback to slot receiver where he had a 100 catch season. Archer may never put up that kind of production, but if he commits himself to improving his hands and working on his craft as a receiver, a creative coach will keep finding ways to use him in their offense.
There will be a lot of people who dismiss Archer as a day three guy and he very well could end up going there, but if he can improve his technique and show that he can play as a receiver going into the NFL, he could easily find his way into the second day of the draft because of his ability to make plays and his overwhelming speed. Marquise Goodwin was able to go in round three this past year with far less productivity and ability than Archer has shown but with speed and a threat to make plays, so it would be a mistake to pigeonhole him as a day three that cannot go any higher because of his size, the MAC, or anything else at this point. A good performance in a post season All-Star game could be helpful for Archer as well not only in terms of his toughness but so teams and scouts can see his speed up close compared to other talented players.