NFL Draft Report Super Sleeper: Archer

Photos by Crystal LoGiudice/USA TODAY

Kent State's explosive Dri Archer lacks polish as a receiver but, as noted in this scouting report from NFL scout Dave-Te' Thomas, he's a threat to score from anyplace on the field, whether it's catching, rushing or returning.

Sometimes, undersized running backs get relegated to third-down or return duties in the National Football League, but Kent State's jack-of-all-trades, Dri Archer, could emerge as a Tavon Austin/Randall Cobb/Dexter McCluster-type of weapon. He was banged up quite a bit with nagging injuries last season, but has shown natural hands and, of course, incredible speed and elusiveness to be a dangerous threat as a slot receiver in the professional ranks.

The first player in school history to be named to the Walter Camp Football Foundation All-American team (2012), Archer's combined 40 touchdowns rank second among Kent State's career leaders. His 4,980 all-purpose yards rank third in school history and he is tied for ninth place in career rushing touchdowns with 24.

The former A-Back and slot receiver moved to tailback full-time as a junior, but he still managed to record 12 receiving touchdowns, sixth-best in KSU annals. He also proved to be a highly effective kickoff returner, as he ranks fourth in Mid-American Conference history with a school-record average of 28.16 yards per runback (51). As a receiver, he his 99 catches are 10th-best and his ability to reach the end zone regularly, amassing 240 points, is third-best by a Golden Flash performer.

Any lingering thoughts about his slight frame disappeared during his sensational performance at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, where his 4.26-second 40-yard dash was the second-best at any Combine in the last decade (Chris Johnson holds the record with a 4.24-second clocking). His 38-inch vertical jump ranked fourth among running backs and 10th among receivers at the 2014 event. He timed 4.06 seconds in the short shuttle, second-best among ball carriers and his 6.84-second three-cone drill placed fourth.

Dri Archer

Kent State University Golden Flashes

5:07.6-173

Body Structure

Archer has a lean frame with adequate muscle definition, but is stronger than he looks. He has room to add more bulk to his frame, but it could impact his best asset — timed speed. He has a tight waist, good bubble, lean, athletic lower frame, with a track man's tapered thighs and calves. He is split high, looking and running like a sprinter that he is, having lettered for his high school's track team.

Athletic Ability

Archer's best asset is his timed speed, as he has more than enough quickness to elude in the open field, with adequate strength to fight for the ball in a crowd. He is a track member with the rare playing speed to stretch the defense, showing the burst needed to beat angles. He demonstrates excellent athleticism for his position, as few opposing defenders can mirror him on deep routes due to his speed. He not only has the speed to threaten the deep secondary, but the body control, lateral quickness and change-of-direction agility to make the underneath catches.

Football Sense

Archer is a versatile receiver who can handle return duties in addition to taking some carries as a running back. He has no problem digesting the playbook and has no problem taking those plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. He has good eyes for locating the soft areas to settle in and shows good awareness for the comebacks. He is quick to recognize coverages and adjust to what the secondary gives him. He also is alert enough to know when he has to work back to the ball, especially when dealing with an erratic quarterback.

Competitiveness

Archer loves to compete for the ball, even if he knows he will get bounced around by the more physical defenders going for the ball in a crowd. He comes through with whatever task the coaches ask, whether catching, running or returning the ball. He plays hard until the whistle and has a good work ethic in the training room. He plays with no fear for his own body and thrives in pressure situations, knowing that he can come through in the clutch. He shows true courage going for the ball in a crowd and plays with pain.

Release

Archer displays a nice combination of quickness, change-of-direction agility and a rolling burst out of his break point, doing a good job of gathering and lowering his weight to make sharp cuts heading up field. He might not look strong, but he has the hand punch and placement to beat the press. Because of his explosive burst, corners are cautious to play him tight, for fear that he will get behind them in an instant, knowing they don't have the speed to match and recover. When he gets a free lane, he is explosive coming off the snap, immediately getting into his routes. He shows more than enough acceleration to stem on the route and the quick feet to explode down the sidelines.

Acceleration

Archer is not only explosive off the snap, but he shows good suddenness when changing directions. He has that quick burst off the get-off foot and really hops into the route's progression. You can see on film his ability to uncover and free himself up when working in the short area. He has outstanding hand/eye coordination, seeing the ball immediately to look the pass in. He is especially effective on jailbreak screens, hitches and slants because of his ability to adjust to the ball and out-run coverage.

Quickness

Archer has excellent open-field quickness, but he is more track fast than football quick (does not carry the pads well when he fails to sink his hips, at times). He has the ability to simply explode off the line, if he gets a clean release. His timing is affected just a bit when opponents get physical and try to jam and reroute him, as he has the moves to elude. You can see on film his ability to quickly gain advantage on the defender through the route's progression.

Route Running

Archer is a classic deep threat, used mostly to stretch the field. He gives good effort working underneath, but still lacks the ability to run several routes. He will short arm when going for the ball over the middle or when facing the quarterback. He needs to be more consistent with his gather and lowering his weight to plant and burst after the short-area catches. By staying at a lower pad level, he would be capable of generating the second gear needed to pull away from the pack. He runs posts and slants adequately and understands stems, sticks and gaining leverage, but when he runs into spots, he is easily taken down by the initial tackle.

Separation Ability

Archer has the quickness and rare speed to close the game playing vs. off coverage, showing the ability to gain that extra step needed to cleanly field the deep throws over his outside shoulder. He still must learn the nuances of running short and intermediate area routes, as he will run into the defender too often in those areas and does not have the bulk to break arm tackles. He has an above-average burst to run under the ball and is a true threat in the deep secondary, but needs to work some on his transition cuts, especially on outs and curls. He can run past any defensive back at this level due to his explosion and ability to maintain stride throughout his route.

Ball Adjustment

Archer does a very nice job of catching the ball over either shoulder. He has the ability to extend and secure the ball working the sidelines and the extended toe tap to keep his feet in bounds. His body control allows him to get to the pass at its high point. He slides to secure the ball inside his body's frame and makes proper adjustments running under the deep ball. He will extend and pluck the ball when riding up on a defender and once he improved his hip flexibility, he showed better turning agility to get to the poorly thrown pass.

Leaping Ability

Archer will extend and catch the ball outside his frame, but due to a lack of height, he has to time his leaps in order to win jump-ball battles, especially since he will revert to short-arming the ball when going for it in a crowd. For some reason, perhaps to so much time carrying the ball, his 38-inch vertical jump fails to translate on the football field.

Hands

Archer has good hands on deep routes, plucking outside his frame, but, oh boy, those short-arm tendencies in traffic can frustrate a coach. When he lets the ball absorb into his chest, he is prone to easy drops, as he will also lose concentration when he hears the oncoming charge of a defender. His hands look much more relaxed when he can create space for himself and run under the ball than when he has to go for the ball in traffic. He has to be more active with his hands to defeat the press, as he has the functional strength to do so, but will struggle at times when a defender is able to lock on and disrupt his route progression. He will usually try to catch the ball with his hands in front and is a fluid runner once he secures the ball, but he has to learn how to use his body to prevent a costly fumble.

Run After the Catch

Archer has incredible speed and good change-of-direction agility, but is more of a straight-line runner than one that can juke a corner out of his backpedal. If he gets space to operate, he can clearly take the ball long distances, but he is not really a consistent home run threat, as he needs to do a better job of selling the route to prevent the defender from stopping him in his tracks. He won't hesitate to lower his shoulder when trying to run through arm tackles, but if he's tagged by a defender, he will be brought down on the spot. He is still developing elusive moves, but has the second gear to elude. He is the type that will make a slower defender miss and when he keeps his pads down, he generates enough strength to break isolated tackles.

Blocking Ability

Archer knows that with his size, he is just going to pester and get in the way as a backfield blocker, lacking the bulk to sustain. He has a good angle concept blocking in the second level, but despite good running strength and an effective hand punch, he's never going to pancake a linebacker.

Inside Running

"Little guys" should not be attacking inside rush lanes with the power that Archer can generate, but that has led to several lower-body injuries. He has very good vision and the ability to pick and slide while building acceleration up the crease. He has the natural balance and forward body lean to bounce off the initial contact. Even though he lacks ideal size and bulk, he has no problem generating a strong inside push, as he will lower his shoulder and keep his legs churning for additional yards. The thing you notice on film is his ability to pick his way through a crowd, as he might be explosive, but is also patient to let the play develop and run off his blocks. Like the former Eagle, Brian Westbrook, he slides and hits the seams quickly, showing above -average balance to make the jump cut and power through the crease.

Outside Running

Archer has the speed and outstanding acceleration, along with a nice array of hip and head fakes to rock defenders up on their heels. He reads and anticipates well, especially when taking the ball around the corner and easily beats the opponent to the edge. He is a "make you miss" type past the second level (see 2013 Ohio University and 2012 Bowling Green and Miami of Ohio games), showing great ability to take the sphere long distances. With his speed, he can get to the corner in an instant and that burst of his is noticeable heading up field. But, he also has that natural vision in the open that helps eliminate a defender's angles. He shows patience waiting for the toss to develop, doing an excellent job of staying low in his pads and changing gears to shift and bounce wide.

Special Teams

Archer has proven that he has the speed, vision and cutting ability to take the ball "to the house" as a kickoff returner (see 2013 Northern Illinois and 2012 Towson, Ball State and Eastern Michigan games). He runs with very good hip snap and has the vision to spot the crease and burst through it. He is a valid candidate to continue as a returner at the next level.

Compares To

DEXTER McCLUSTER, Tennessee: Like McCluster, Archer is a threat to score from anywhere on the field and has had very good success when used as a receiver, running back or returner. He is simply one of those types than can impact field position any time he touches the ball, showing suddenness and explosion out of his stance and into the second level. He has game-breaking speed and is tough and physical going after the ball working in the slot. He sets up his blocks well and knows how to squeeze through tight spaces to get valid yardage after the catch. He's what we call an instant accelerator, thanks to his shifty and elusive moves that leave defenders grabbing at air. If captured by a bigger defender, he will fight for more yardage, but the battle is soon over.

Archer has a nice blend of strength and low pad level to push the pile taking the ball up the gut. His speed is evident by the opposition's inability to stop him once he gets into the second level. He is still a work in progress as a receiver, but with his excellent return duties, teams will see he is much more than just a change-of-pace back.

Archer realizes that his best asset is his speed. Archer lacks the size and route running ability to ever be a number one receiver, thus eliminating some scouts comparing him to the Rams' Tavon Austin. He can certainly stretch the field, but does have deficiencies running other routes consistently. Use him to go deep, on reverses, and returns and that team will get good production from him. If he becomes that organization's go-to receiver, something is lacking in that unit, as he fits in much better as a complimentary piece that can do a "little bit of this, a little bit of that," rather than be pigeon-holed at just one role.


Dave-Te' Thomas has more than 40 years of experience scouting for the NFL. With the NFL Draft Report, Thomas handles a staff that evaluates and tests college players before the draft and prepares the NFL's official Draft Packet, which is distributed to all 32 teams prior to the draft.

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