Another day, another immensely talented rookie wide receiver to analyze.
I discussed it in my previous piece on Dorial Green-Beckham, but this year’s wide receiver class is really, really good. How good? Well, you remember last year’s historic class?
Yeah. Well, it’s not that good. But still pretty damn good. Got it?
One of the reasons it’s so good is the fact that DeVante Parker, who is listed as the number-three overall receiver on most boards, could very well end up being the best wideout of this class. He has height, size, speed, hands, athleticism, you name it.
Let’s take a closer look.
Parker isn’t exactly slow, but he lacks top-end speed that other wideouts possess. However, that doesn’t mean he’s not explosive or can’t make big plays down the field. Not at all. He can make plays down the field as well as any receiver in this class, but is also dangerous after the catch, whether it’s on quick slants or bubble screens. At 6-foot-3, he’s certainly not small, but won’t be the biggest wideout in the league once he enters, though, he plays as if he were 6-foot-6. Tremendous body control, strong physicality, and an outstanding catch radius, Parker may have the best hands and all-around ball-catching ability out of any of these rookies.
Parker missed the first seven games of his senior campaign with a foot injury, but once he returned to action, he was just as dominant. Over his final six games, he hauled in 43 balls for 855 yards and five scores. During his four seasons at Louisville, he was credited with just three drops, just one of the reasons why I believe he has the best hands in this class. His sophomore season was particularly impressive, as he hauled in 10 touchdowns, the most in a season in school history since 1998. He’s clearly a strong touchdown producer, as 25 percent of his catches during that season went for scores, while 22 percent of his receptions in 2013 were touchdowns. And for his career, about 21 percent of his receptions went for scores. It’s going to be difficult to ignore that type of touchdown upside in fantasy football, especially if he lands on the right team to help utilize that skill. Parker’s 33 career touchdown receptions are tied for the most in Louisville history, and he recorded a 100-yard outing 25 percent of the time, too.
Let’s take a look at his game, shall we?
-Insane catch radius
-Extremely sound hands
-Very good body control in air
-Can catch ball at highest point
-Tracks football well
-Lacks elite breakaway speed
-Can improve as a blocker
-Needs to be more physical at line
-Not a very sudden wideout
Is this the most spectacular catch ever? Of course not. But you’ll see some jaw-droppers later. However, it’s just one example of how simple Parker makes it look to adjust to a ball thrown behind him, which makes him an ideal target for back-shoulder fades around the end zone. He has arguably the best body control out of any receiver in this class. His outstanding length and wingspan allow the difficult catches he makes to look a bit easier.
And while he does his best work when the ball is in the air, Parker can surely make some short-yardage passes turn into long-yardage plays.
During his four seasons at Louisville, Parker averaged a strong 17.7 yards per catch, and he ranked inside the top-15 in the entire nation in that category in both 2014 and 2012. He has the ability to make big plays, despite not having “elite speed”, though, he’s not exactly what you would call “slow” either. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with a 4.40 40-time, after all. Parker has some tremendous wiggle and elusiveness in the open field in order to generate plenty of YAC. He almost looks like a running back with the way he runs in the open field. Strong vision when it comes to following blockers and avoiding traffic, as well as quick cutting ability that makes him difficult to tackle in the open field. And he can certainly hit the home run, too.
Now let’s get to my favorite part of Parker’s game–his catch radius.
Again, his wingspan and length are very impressive, and when you combine that with his tremendous body control, it’s no wonder why he tends to make so many outstanding grabs. He’s got strong leaping and vertical ability, and is a bit stronger than he looks, especially when the ball is in the air, where, of course, he does some of his best work on the football field.
That’s not yours.
Neither is that.
Because of his ability to do, well…that, Parker has been a touchdown machine in college. As I previously stated, during his collegiate career, Parker tied the school record with 33 touchdowns, and in those four seasons at Louisville, about 22 percent of his receptions went for a touchdown. Also, he became a very familiar guest at the paydirt hotel, finding the end zone every 4.7 catches during that span.
Potential Landing Spots
Parker is likely going to be a top-15 pick in this April’s draft, and he could potentially go even higher than that. He’s got size, speed, athleticism, terrific hands, and more importantly, he’s played at a high level everywhere he’s played the game. Despite being the third wheel in this year’s receiver class, I’m not sure anyone would be truly shocked if Parker had the best rookie campaign out of any of the pass-catchers this season.
So where could he land?
There has been a ton of speculation about Parker being selected 11th overall by the Vikings. There is obviously a connection there, as he caught passes from Minnesota’s starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater for three seasons at Louisville. The Vikings could certainly be in play for a wideout, as they have some inexperienced pass-catchers on the roster right now, outside of Mike Wallace. It wouldn’t surprise anyone, and it might make sense, but Minnesota may need a bit of a change of heart before selecting him. A member of the team’s personnel department stated that the Vikings do like Parker, but don’t value him as a top-three receiver, surprisingly, and that the history between he and Bridgewater is irrelevant.
Don’t laugh. Dwayne Bowe once caught 15 touchdowns in a season. That was back in 2010.
He’s caught 13 in the five years since.
Meanwhile, newly acquired Brian Hartline is averaging two touchdowns over the course of his six-year career in the NFL. The Browns won’t have Josh Gordon again this season, and they desperately need players who can find the end zone and help put points on the board. Enter Parker, who was clearly a touchdown machine at college, and would instantly become the best receiver on their roster, in my opinion. Of course, this wouldn’t be very good for his fantasy value, but it would ensure that he saw a significant amount of targets. And last year, the Browns ranked dead last in passing touchdown percentage (37.5), which was eight points worse than the 31st-ranked team. They need playmakers on offense in a bad way.
Also: San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins.