When discussing some of the great college and pro football teams of all time, a certain attribute always rises in the discussion, speed. Yes the legion of boom in Seattle were very strong and physical on defense and loved to make big hits on running backs and receivers, but their team speed enabled them to do so. The Baltimore Ravens, who won the 2000 Super Bowl, had legendary players like Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson, but they were also known for their aggressiveness and speed to get to the ball carrier. The Miami Hurricanes in the early 2000’s and the Nebraska Cornhuskers of the mid 90’s both had unremarkable team speed!! That’s why when you talk to coaches about certain players, such as Chris Johnson, Lawrence Taylor, and Deion Sanders, they will always tell you, speed kills.
Many Steelers fans were surprised on the second day of the draft at the end of the 3rd round. Once the Steelers had drafted Ryan Shazier, linebacker, with their first pick and Stephon Tuitt, Defensive end, in the second round. Many fans thought that the Steelers would address the team’s most glaring need, at least in the eyes of all the experts and Sofa King quarterbacks out there, a cornerback. With names still on the draft board like, Pierre Desir, Walt Aikens, Jaylen Watkins, Bashuad Breeland, Aaron Colvin, and Keith McGill, the Steelers opted to surprise everyone and draft a running back/wide receiver and return specialist, Dri Archer.
Archer is the definition of speed. Speed is something you can’t teach, and if you watched the Steelers in 2013, they didn’t have a lot of it. He blew everyone away when he ran his 40 time at the NFL combine. He predicted heading into the combine that he would break Chris Johnson’s record in the 40 at 4.24. He wasn’t able to break the record but he came close. He ran it in 4.26 seconds and according to nfldraftscout.com, one scout had him running it in an unbelievable 4.16!!
Once the Steelers had drafted 2 defensive players in the first 2 rounds they shifted focus to the offensive side of the ball with their next 2 picks. Dri Archer was the first of the 2 selections. Martavis Bryant was the pick after him. A small running back/wide receiver, Archer stands at 5’8” and a 173lbs but more than makes up for it with his speed on the field. Archer was switched to wide receiver during rookie camp and that is were he could become instant offense for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Archer is the type of player that, if you are able to get him the ball in space, he is a threat to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. He will start out by making an impact on special teams by returning kick-offs and punts. He averaged 28.2 yards per kick-off return in his college career with 4 touchdowns. They are going to experiment with him in returning punts but he wasn’t asked to do it very much in college.
Obviously, the Steelers coaches and front office wanted to address the speed in this draft. Taking a page straight out of the Oakland Raiders playbook, they selected a linebacker in Ryan Shazier who ran a 4.38 40 at his pro day. Dri Archer ran a 4.26 at the combine. Martavis Bryant, selected in the 4th round, ran 4.42 and Shaquille Richardson, selected in the 5th round, ran a 4.43. They did get players that will help with team speed, the question still remains will they be good enough to contribute right away or will they take time to develop. Dri Archer is definitely an intriguing player that I am looking forward to watching this next season. He has drawn comparisons to Dexter McCluster, RB/WR, for the Tennessee Titans. Archer is actually bigger and faster than McCluster. He will bring a different dimension to the Pittsburgh Steelers offense that they haven’t had in the past.
By passing on a cornerback in the 3rd round, it puts Dri Archer under the microscope very quickly. If he fails to contribute on the field this season, many people will label him a bust and blame the front office for not taking care of a team need that they thought was more important. But if he is successful, by taking a few kick-offs back for touchdowns and turning a few slip screens into big time plays, no one will even remember that they drafted him instead of a defensive back.