Is DeVante Parker Being Slightly Overlooked?
Former Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker was ridiculously good in 2014.
Once he returned for the final six games of the season from a broken bone in his foot that required surgery, Parker absolutely took over the Cardinals' offense, averaging 7.2 receptions per game and tearing up opposing defenses for 142.5 yards per contest. Parker accounted for 57% of Louisville's receiving yards in his active games last year, a higher share of yards than both Amari Cooper (44%) and Kevin White (35%) had in their final collegiate seasons.
While Amari Cooper may be the best wide receiver in this year's class and Kevin White is arguably the most explosive athlete among the incoming wide receiver class, Parker is not held in a similar light. Why is this?
It's totally possible that Parker's 2014 season is being knocked because his sample of games (six) was virtually cut in half relative to the rest of the class. But is this a fair assessment?
To find out, the table below has Parker's career yardage splits against the average. Essentially, this statistic looks at the percentage of receptions that met the specified split (i.e. first down). For a little more context, I added Amari Cooper and Kevin White's splits to the table as well. The entire sample was 15 wide receivers.
|Name||Rec.||Targets||1st Down %||15+ Yards %||25+ Yards %||TD %|
An astounding 75% of DeVante Parker's career receptions at Louisville went for a first down. Of course -- this includes first-round quarterback Teddy Bridgewater's three seasons as a starter from 2011 to 2013 -- but it's hard not to fall in love with Parker's overall efficiency.
Once more, DeVante Parker was a habitual touchdown scorer in his college career. 21.2% of his career receptions found the endzone which was the second highest touchdown rate behind only Ohio State's Devin Smith (24.8%) in this year's class.
All of this effectively leads to one question: how does this production project to the NFL?
A Grain of Salt Needed?
Frankly, there is not much to dislike about Parker's game. He was insanely efficient in college -- but some of his success has to do with the fact he never had more than 55 receptions in a single season. Granted, he was on a 93-reception pace had he played out the entire season. Yet, one of the major fallback arguments against Parker is we haven't seen him explode for a full-season like Amari Cooper and Kevin White both did in 2014.
Parker is also a fantastic athlete, standing at 6'3" and 209 pounds. He also posted some fine scores at the 2014 combine. But unlike in the production splits above, he fails to separate himself into an elite athletic upper tier.
Using RotoUnderworld's "Player Profiler" tool, the table below indicates Parker, Cooper, and White's relative height-adjusted speed and burst scores.
The height-adjusted speed score measures a player's speed via their 40-time but puts a premium on both body weight and body length. Burst score total's a player’s vertical jump height and broad jump distance and equally weights both measures. Percentiles are denoted in parenthesis.
|Name||Height-Adj Speed||Burst Score|
|DeVante Parker||109.5 (86th)||124.6 (68th)|
|Amari Cooper||110.6 (89th)||116.1 (21st)|
|Kevin White||123.4 (98th)||123.6 (61st)|
As you can see, all three of these wide receivers are phenomenal prospects from just a height-adjusted speed perspective, and Parker has a slight edge in overall athletic burst.
While Parker's 86th percentile speed score is fantastic, it still is just below Cooper's 89th percentile speed and pales in comparison to Kevin White's 98th percentile explosiveness. For further reference, Missouri's Dorial Green-Beckham's 4.49 40-yard dash warranted a 97th percentile speed score.
The Bottom Line
It really is pretty simple: DeVante Parker is an outstanding prospect coming in to this year's draft. While his overall production-based efficiency in college was extraordinary, he still didn't have a full season's sample to claim dominance.
Perhaps it's a bit short-sighted to knock him for an injury and perhaps his six games in 2014 really were a direct representation of his ability. He did, in fact, have his most productive season by far with a quarterback not named Teddy Bridgewater.
Parker may not be the first or even second-best wide receiver in this year's draft according to mock drafts and rankings, but it's as if he lacks monstrous upside like Amari Cooper, Kevin White, Dorial Green-Beckham, or even Breshad Perriman.
Of course, draft capital and landing spot will play a big role in determining the outcomes of these players' careers. Still, Parker's college production and solid athleticism certainly makes him worthy of at least being in the conversation among the best wide receivers in this year's draft class.