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Scat Back 3.0 – How Will Dri Archer Succeed Where Others Had Failed?


I think it’s safe to call it now. Todd Haley likes himself some scat backs. The Pittsburgh Steelers used their third-round compensatory pick to select former Kent State RB/WR/KR Dri Archer, a 5’8”, 170 lbs. bullet with 4.2 speed.

Initial opinions on Archer seem to be split down a divide based primarily on whether or not you like the idea of a scat back. Those who don’t will tend to claim that Archer was a major reach, while those who are open to it argue that he could be a steal.

Mel Kiper before the draft, for example, thought the third round was the right target area for him, and mentioned him as a candidate for rookie of the year.

WhenHaley was with the Kansas City Chiefs, he coveted the versatility of a similar player, Dexter McCluster, and sought to bring that kind of weapon to Pittsburgh when he became the team’s offensive coordinator in 2012.

That year, the Steelers drafted Chris Rainey in the fifth round, a player who on the surface will draw many comparisons with Archer. Rainey never became what was expected of him, however, both on and off the field.

While he occasionally flirted with danger on offense and as a return man, Rainey was simply too frail, routinely going down on first contact seemingly without fail. If he wasn’t running by you, he wasn’t getting any yards after contact.

With the shape the offensive line was in then, it wasn’t a good situation for Rainey to be in. After an off-field incident, the Steelers had no trouble letting him go.

The Steelers instead turned to a veteran of a similar mold for the 2013 season, signing slight running back LaRod Stephens-Howling in free agency.

He was bogged down with knee troubles for much of the offseason, however, outside of one impressive preseason performance, and he ended up tearing his ACL in the season opener.

For a player with his attributes, an ACL tear is a major blow. Surely by this point, the Steelers could have no interest in re-signing Stephens-Howling.

So it is that we arrive at take three for the great scat back project in year three of Haley’s offense, but while Archer may appear to be the best candidate of the three to find success, you’ll excuse me if I’m not overly optimistic about the chances of him being a significant contributor to the offense.

Watching through some of Archer’s college tape, he shows some of the same issues that Rainey had. Most concerning is the 13 career fumbles on 424 touches, which is once every 33 touches. That’s awful, and frankly should be concerning, though in his stellar 2012 season he fumbled only twice in 198 touches.

The other concern is that, like Rainey, he doesn’t have the strength to do much once a defender has his hands on him. While he seems to have a greater repertoire of evasive actions, and shows a greater willingness to meet contact and drive through it for yards after contact, he will need to rely on getting into the open field at the next level.

With that said, there’s also plenty to like about the potential he could bring to this offense, and about the fact that the offense should be better equipped to accommodate his skill set than it was with Rainey.

To that end, the focus here will be on the offensive line and the athleticism in space offered by Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, and perhaps Kelvin Beachum at left tackle. With Mike Munchak on board working to properly install outside zone concepts into the offense, it would seem that Archer has a better chance of making full use of his skills than could be said of the offenses of recent years. But right now, it’s all hypothetical.

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About Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • frednash

    will he be the fastest player in the nfl?

  • shawn

    Dont like the fumbles, they will have to work on that .. and despite his impressive strength he does go down easily … but he is not fragile and contrary to what was written he does not need much space to be elusive .. if our OL is remotely opening holes he can run with the best of them any hole along the line … granted only a handful of carries a game, but he doesnt need to be solely used outside in space ..

    In fact i think that is one of his best attributes is his vision .. he sees lanes 2 moves down the road and goes by them in a flash … i do think u are right that we are dependant on how Haley uses him … i thought Jamaal Charles would be the best back in the NFL coming out of college … and i surely think he is now …. but unfortunately i dont think he was used properly in KC ( yes he has done some amazing things .. but i think he’s even a heck of a lot better)

    Not sure if that was due to how Haley used him, but I’m hoping that he finds the right way to utilise the kid … cause Archer can be electric and every bit as good as AB !

  • shawn

    He is the Fastest Player in the NFL … let me go a bit further … if they had ever timed 40s in pads … i would be very shocked if he wasn’t the FASTEST player to ever play the game !

  • Weiss Chad

    Pro football talk had this guy mocked in first rd.everyone else who is anyone had him in third.Stop saying he is Rainey like.Only similarities is speed.Great pick.Lets wrap this thing up strong!!

  • DoctorNoah

    He’s definitely the final piece, that one tiny missing spark, that will make us a Super Bowl caliber team again. -ahem-

  • shawn

    just remember that crow … when the time comes doctor !

  • steeltown

    Yes, no doubt about it, injury is always a concern, but when is injury not a concern with every player on the field. I’ll admit the fumbles are bad, but atleast we are putting an emphasis on ball control this offseason, ha

    He’s another piece to this thing, we had two huge bruisers at RB and no clear return guy, he helps bolster both of those areas

  • scott2443

    rainey was what in a 40 4.36 this guys sub 4.20 plus he can catch like a wr and with zone blocking he could run reverses and no one will be fast enough to catch him on back side …sure hes not 6 foot and 230lbs but imagine 2 fast wr`s wheaton and brown and then miller and moore lined up then toss dri in and ben with ball can you see how a def could be going oh no it be hard enough to cover brown with out help who cover rest then …dri could run or drop out to side line for a quick toss or go deep also ….or heres another thought hes faster then wallace was and if he just runs down field like wallace did n bens there waiting to do what he does this kid could catch 30 40 yards a catch they have to double cover him then what will they do with brown out there roaming

  • 20Stoney

    I have no idea how he ll work out as a player but I think he’s a luxury pick. With the holes we have I can’t see making it

  • John C

    What about a play with Dri and Wheaton flying down opposite sidelines with AB and Miller in the middle!!

  • scott2443

    yeah that work too..diff with dri and not with rainey he played as a wr so he could do it ..if this is what will happen teams better collect rest the cb`s in this draft they will need them

  • Shannon Stephenson

    we only have 2 legitimate HB’s on the roster…we carry 4…I say it was a need.

  • Steve

    After last year rash of RB going down with injuries, coaches were needing new infusion of blood with Archer and Blount.

  • ApexSteel

    He has to be up there. They say he ran a 4.26 40 in 18 steps which is tied with Calvin Johnson for the least in combine history so you know his acceleration is ridiculous for him to tie with someone who’s 10 inches taller than him. The thing that’s over stated about him is that he’s small, but I go to Kent and I’ve met the dude. He’s really not scrawny at all.

  • LouPGH

    I had the same thought initially. But consider the fact that AB was returning kicks and punts for us last year. There wasn’t a WR or CB left at #97 who would have a realistic shot at starting this year. This kid will have an immediate impact; he will most likely play (and touch the ball, in the case of skill position players) more than any other guy drafted in the 3rd Round*. (Center is not a skill position player, but at the beginning of the round the 49ers picked up a guy who will start for them and centers touch the ball every play.)

  • Brian Miller

    yep…Rainey ain’t got nothin on Archer’s speed anyway.

  • Brian Miller

    Good point…we can’t afford to have AB running back kickoffs and punts. Archer is that man.

  • Brian Miller

    Fumbles don’t bother me now, because he won’t be getting 15 carries a game…let’s get him 5 – 10 touches a game both running and catching, and I think he has a chance to be successful.

  • 20Stoney

    Guys this is not guy that is going to fill in if Blount or Bell goes down. He’s a guy that is going to return kicks and let Haley figure ways to get him the ball in space. I am not in any way saying he is not going to be any good. I have no idea. I’m just saying there are a lot more pressing needs. Cornerback in particular. If we somehow come away with a decent corner, I’ll feel a lot better,

  • BRUCE HAKE

    Do you think we could of got this guy in later rounds? Hope we are not embodying the Raiders draft style, thinking speed will solve any problem. Maybe we can get a fast punter today in the draft!!

  • Weiss Chad

    I like it

  • cencalsteeler

    Make Archer carry around the ball at all times during practice. If any player knocks it out of his hands, dinner is on him. That should fix his issue after seeing a few restaurant bills.

  • Eric MacLaurin

    We are almost redoing that draft with a little more effort….or at least a different focus.

    Shazier is a high end version of spence and Dri is a high end rainey.

  • Dan

    Certainly seems like there’s as much bad tape on him and as good. He does go down easy and is not good with ball security. I’m a little concerned about this one. I’m wondering if we’re a little over infatuated with speed these days. This seems like an experiment. Hope it works out.

  • Dan

    Still can’t help but be a bit miffed that the Texans got Nix with our pick that we traded away to Cleveland last year. While I’m glad we got Shamarko, I think we could have aquired a 3rd string QB later.

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