Kent State’s dream season ended Sunday night in the GoDaddy Bowl.
Dri Archer has a little more than a week to make a decision on whether it was his last game as a college player.
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After spending 2011 on the sidelines, the dynamic but diminutive Archer earned first-team All-American honors as a kick returner despite the fact that no opponent has actually kicked to him since early to mid-October. He’s been very good as a running back, slot guy and even a decoy, too, scoring 23 touchdowns for the season, at least one in 12 of Kent State’s 14 games.
He scored one in his team’s loss to Arkansas State in the bowl game, then injured his knee and missed much of the second half. It’s the type of thing no one associated with the Kent State program wanted to happen, and it’s exactly why Archer faces such a difficult and important decision now.
The NFL’s underclass deadline for the 2013 draft is January 15, and Archer is going to be tempted by the chance to declare and get paid to play football from here on out.
When NFL teams brought in their scouts for December player evaluation meetings, Archer was discussed. By rule, teams are supposed to scout seniors only during the season. But anybody who turned on the Flashes’ tape noticed Archer, and it’s no secret that he’d be a prospect worth further study if he declares.
What they’ll find — and have to sort through — is this: Archer is FAST. He’s shifty, and he explodes out of his cuts. He can catch the ball, too, and the return game is something he’s used to. The first test is always the eyeball test, and Archer might be generously listed at 5’8, 175.
That’s too small for any NFL mold, and fair or not it probably excludes Archer from having any chance at being selected on the draft’s first two days. Archer has shown the ability to break molds — and ankles — and the eyes of the NFL will have to evaluate both how and how soon he can contribute at the NFL level.
The questions they’ll ask, either this winter or next, are along these lines: Can he take the type of pounding he’ll take in the NFL? Can he protect the passer if he’s a third-down back? What kind of system fits him best, from the aspect of learning the system to beating out who’s currently on the roster to contributing on multiple special teams? NFL teams don’t just want guys with special talents. They want guys who can make their teams better.
A role player in his first two years — and a player who had just one Div. I scholarship offer coming out of high school — he probably wasn’t on any scout’s radar until last October. He sat out last season due to an academic/administrative issues, and NFL teams will certainly look into that if he declares.
What they’ll find is that Kent State had 48 players bring home a 3.0 grade-point average or better for the fall semester. Archer was one of them; he was one of 50 who did it last spring, too.
The bottom line on his impending NFL decision is that Archer isn’t getting any bigger, and if he’s a fourth to sixth-round pick in 2013 he’d probably be the same in 2014, too. The average NFL career isn’t very long, and it can be shorter for smaller players whose success is based on speed and avoiding those big hits. Archer’s eye-popping season has opened the door to an NFL career, and though his offensive coordinator is expected to be back at Kent State next year, his head coach is gone and most of his offensive line is going, too.
There are no guarantees in football on any level. Toledo’s Eric Page — a different player than Archer but a somewhat fair comparison based on his size and college accomplishments — decided to go to the NFL last year, didn’t get drafted, then got hurt after signing with the Broncos, then was released. He spent the fall going to school and rehabbing — but not making NFL checks.
There are positives to either way Archer chooses to go. Right now, he has a little over week to decide which one he thinks is best.