When it comes to wide receiver prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft, most agree it's Kevin White and Amari Cooper in one tier, and then everyone else. However, depending on whom you ask, former Louisville wideout DeVante Parker should be a part of that elite tier with White and Cooper as well. So what are we to make of Parker's fantasy prospects in what is sure to be another crowded and talented rookie wide receiver class? I dove into the tape to find out.
» Soft, reliable hands
» Massive catch radius
» Incredibly dangerous after the catch
» Ideal size/frame for NFL
Just looking at him standing still, Parker fits the mold as an NFL wide receiver. He stands 6-foot-3, weighs 209 pounds, has a ridiculous 80-inch wingspan and posted excellent combine measurables (4.45 second 40-yard dash, 36.5 inch vertical leap, 125-inch broad jump). Tack onto that a pair of soft, reliable hands and it's easy to see why many scouts and teams are getting excited about the former Cardinal's potential at the NFL level.
Where Parker truly excels is in accumulating yards after the catch. He is a natural at slicing through defenders in the open field and has a variety of moves to complement his natural size and speed to gain extra yards. Despite some deficiencies in his route-running and the nuance of playing the position (more on this in a second), Parker does show some natural tendencies that could be coached up to make him one heck of a receiver. Watch him use subtle contact at the top of this route to gain separation and make a catch along the sideline. That's an NFL-level move right there.
» Imprecise route runner
» Needs to attack the ball better
» Lack of variety in moves off the line
» Not very physical given his frame
Parker made hay with the slant in college, but other than that, his route-running tape is a mixed bag of lackadaisical efforts and sloppy routes that tip cornerbacks off to his moves. Most wide receivers improve this skill upon reaching the NFL, but Parker has been in a pro-style offense for years, so it's disappointing to see this lack of polish. His inconsistencies in this area have been well-documented, including an over-reliance on a stutter step to create separation at the line of scrimmage. NFL cornerbacks will feast on Parker if he doesn't learn to be more physical off the line and mix up his moves to not reveal his intentions too early.
Lastly, while Parker's size and ludicrous catch radius allow him to win plenty of contested catches, I would have loved to see him attack the ball even more. In particular, there were a few instances against N.C. State from 2014 where I felt Parker left plays on the field by not making a stronger effort for the ball. The best receivers in the NFL are able to use every inch of their size and ability to win contested catches (think Dez Bryant and Jordy Nelson), and this is an area where Parker will need to (and can) improve if he wants to beat the bigger, smarter and stronger cornerbacks in the NFL.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
There are a number of other teams who could select Parker in the first round on April 30 when the NFL Draft gets under way, but from a fantasy perspective lets hope he lands with one of these three teams. Parker reuniting with Teddy Bridgewater (his college quarterback) in Minnesota would give the Vikings a trio of young, talented wide receivers. Sadly, they'll likely try to continue developing Cordarrelle Patterson instead of investing another first-round pick at the position after acquiring Mike Wallace from the Dolphins. Pairing Parker with DeAndre Hopkins in Houston excites me, but they'd still need a quarterback to get them the ball consistently. Lastly, the Ravens are in desperate need at wide receiver after losing Torrey Smith to the 49ers in free agency, and having Parker learn under Steve Smith Sr. for a year or two could do him wonders as a pro, not to mention putting him with a capable quarterback in Joe Flacco.
Early fantasy draft projection
Purely from a physical standpoint, Parker has everything you want in a wide receiver. However, his lack of polish at the finer points of the position could limit his ability to immediately contribute in fantasy. He's a great target in dynasty formats (I do really love his potential), but unless he lands on a team with a quarterback who can help him produce from Day 1 (like Baltimore), he's probably better left until the very late rounds in fantasy redrafts.