Can DeVante Parker Bring Life to the Miami Dolphins' Offense?
If you want Ryan Tannehill to succeed, you have to give him the tools to do so. In drafting DeVante Parker, the Dolphins took a step in the right direction.
Parker may not have been as highly regarded as Amari Cooper and Kevin White, but he may have out-produced them in college. Now, we just have to see if he can take that production to South Beach.
In order to evaluate this pick, we'll be using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP). This measures a player's or team's performance relative to expectations. For example, let's say it's third and seven, and a wide receiver catches an eight-yard pass. That would increase the expected number of points the team would score on that drive. If he makes that same eight-yard reception on third and nine, his impact on the team's expected points is lower. When you add up all of the plays over the course of a season, you get a player's or a team's NEP.
Before we get to all of that, though, let's run through why Parker was so highly coveted and what the Dolphins are getting in him.
It's pretty easy to see what NFL teams saw in Parker while going through the evaluation process. Homie crammed a season's worth of production into only six games his final season at Louisville.
All Parker did in his six games was catch 43 passes for 855 yards and 5 touchdowns. He had one game in that span where he had fewer than 120 receiving yards, and his quarterback, Reggie Bonnafon, only completed 8 passes in that one. On those 43 receptions, he averaged 19.9 yards per reception, meaning the offense traveled, on average, one-fifth of the field every time he caught the ball. Gross.
Efficiency was always a positive characteristic of Parker in his time with the Cardinals. The chart below shows the yards per target for each of the top three receivers in this draft over their collegiate careers.
|Player||Targets||Receiving Yards||Yards per Target|
Even though he was only targeted two more times than White, Parker spun those 241 targets into 1,328 more yards and 18 more touchdowns. This isn't to say that Parker will be better than White but rather that you should dismiss his senior-year production because of a sample size. This is something he did his entire career.
This week here on numberFire, Graham Barfield wrote a killer piece about Parker's collegiate productivity and physical skills. Within that piece, he had a great table that I wanted to reintroduce here as the implications were important as they pertain to Parker's relative stock.
What Graham did was go through every reception Parker, Cooper and White made over their entire career. He found that 75 percent of Parker's receptions went for a first down, 46.8 percent were 15 yards or longer, and 21.2 percent ended in the end zone. For Cooper, those numbers were 63, 36.6 and 13.7 percent respectively. The numbers on White dropped to 55.6, 33.3 and 10.4. It just reiterates that Parker was a straight-up baller in college, and his production was as good as if not better than Cooper and White.
One thing that sticks out when looking at Parker's splits is that he only recorded one reception in the red zone last year. That's not what you might expect from a guy who stands 6'3". Fret not, though, Dolphins fans. In his first three years with the Cardinals, he caught 12 passes in the red zone. Eleven of those went for touchdowns. That'll work.
The one minor downside of Parker is that he doesn't provide the same explosion as Cooper and White. Parker's 4.45 time in the 40 was 0.03 seconds slower than Cooper and a full tenth of a second slower than White.
Parker did, however, top both players with his ups. He posted a 36.5 inch vertical, which was equal to that of White and better than Cooper's. His 125.0 inch broad jump bested White by two inches and Cooper by five inches. What he lacks in speed he makes up for in hops.
We can see pretty clearly that Parker posted good numbers in college. But will that get lost in a Dolphins offense that hasn't lived up to expectations?
Tannehill's Steady Improvement
With the trade of Mike Wallace to Minnesota, this pick became a lot more obvious for Miami. Even with Wallace on the team last year, they struggled in finishing 19th in the league in Adjusted Passing NEP per play, which measures an offense's passing efficiency and adjusts for an opponent's defensive strength. That's not terrible, but most playoff teams rank in the top 10 in the category if they don't have an other-worldly defense. Parker can get them closer.
As for Tannehill individually, he has been improving. His 58.94 Total NEP (which takes into account expected points added on rushing plays) was leaps and bounds better than the marks of 4.91 and -15.56 in 2013 and 2012, respectively. This is without having a true top-notch receiver in any of those years. It's not a lock that Parker can provide that, but it's better than what they had.
Of the 87 receivers that were targeted at least 50 times last year, Wallace ranked 41st in Reception NEP per target. This measures the points added on receptions divided by the number of times he was targeted. Wallace wasn't living up to his contract, so it makes sense to start over from scratch at receiver with Parker.
The Dolphins' passing offense has been trending upward. Parker gives them the chance to continue that path. If his efficiency and size can translate over to the NFL, then Miami may have just found itself the dancing partner Tannehill has needed ever-so-desperately.