By Tony DelSignore Jr.
On the first offensive drive of the preseason opener against the New York Giants, the Pittsburgh Steelers lined up in a five wide receiver set. In the slot to the left side of the formation was rookie “offensive weapon” Dri Archer. Ben Roethlisberger stood in the shotgun, took the snap and quickly threw the ball out to the rookie speedster. What Archer did next surely got the Steelers, their fans and fantasy owners out of their seats. Archer darted from left to right across the field for a 46 yard catch and run. Archer’s electric ability was on full display and possibly quieted some of the critics who didn’t understand why the Steelers “wasted” their valuable third round pick on the small scat back from Kent State.
Aside from physical traits like running a 4.26 at the NFL Combine, Archer is an exciting football player. You don’t have to look back very far to see why the Steelers targeted Dri Archer early in the 2014 NFL Draft. During his 2012 college season, Archer was First-team All MAC and MAC Special Teams Player of the Year. A few highlights of Archer’s career year in 2012: 9.0 yards per rush, 23 total touchdowns including three kick return touchdowns. In 2013, Archer’s numbers “came back to earth” (7.8 yards per rush and 11 touchdowns) but you can see some of the impact that Archer can make on the Steelers offense and special teams.
As was mentioned in the LeGarrette Blount fantasy preview, Le’Veon Bell and Blount will carry the vast majority of the carries in the Steelers rushing attack. But a team that ranked 27th with only 86.4 rushing yards per game last year could use a speedy player like Archer to improve their running game.
Archer will be used all over the formation in Todd Haley’s offense and have opportunities to break big plays as we saw against the Giants. I would bet that Archer will see between 5-6 touches each game excluding special teams. The Steelers need to find ways to get Archer in space in either the running game or passing game. Archer is the type of player that can impact a game with one big play.
If your fantasy league rewards points for return yardage, Archer could be a valuable asset as a deep league flex play. Archer likely won’t have any value in standard 12 team leagues so no need to worry about him in your typical draft. The only way Archer has any real week to week value this year is if the Steelers were to suffer several injuries to their running backs or receivers.
According to Fantasy Football Calculator (which tracks average draft position of every player in real and mock fantasy drafts throughout the offseason), Archer is not even being drafted in the first 15 rounds (*based on standard & PPR 12 team, 16 round drafts). Archer is worth a stash in deep dynasty leagues. Keep track of his progress as the preseason continues. He will have significantly more value to the Steelers than he will to your fantasy team.
My season projections for Dri Archer are: 38 rushes, 228 yards, 1 touchdown. 26 receptions, 307 yards, 2 touchdowns. 24.2 yard average on kick returns, 1 touchdown. 11.5 yard average on punt returns, 1 touchdown.
Follow me on Twitter at @TonyD_12 and @SteelersDepot for more Steelers fantasy analysis and projections throughout the 2014 season.
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2014 Fantasy Football Profile: Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger
2014 Fantasy Football Profile: Steelers TE Heath Miller
2014 Fantasy Football Profile: Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell
2014 Fantasy Football Profile: Steelers WR Markus Wheaton
2014 Fantasy Football Profile: Steelers WR Lance Moore
2014 Fantasy Football Profile: Steelers RB LeGarrette Blount