DeVante Parker Can Be a Nice Fantasy Football Asset Down the Stretch

DeVante Parker is moving into a full-time role with the Dolphins, and is a true late-season breakout candidate.

For years, one of the golden rules of fantasy football circles was "thou shalt not depend on a rookie wide receiver." 

Times change, though, and in 2014, we witnessed perhaps the finest crop of rookie wide receivers in NFL history. 

Entering 2015, NFL teams and fantasy owners hoping this might be more of a trend than an aberration saw some serious potential in this year's class, as six receivers were chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. Fantasy owners who invested draft capital in any of these first-rounders, with the exception of Amari Cooper, have been left wishing they'd stuck with the old school style and completely avoided rookie pass-catchers this season. 

Kevin White and Breshad Perriman have yet to see a snap this season due to injuries, Phillip Dorsett hasn't seen much action with the disappointing Colts, and Nelson Agholor has been a major bust for the reeling Eagles. Only Cooper has been a reliable fantasy option on a weekly basis among the first-rounders, but there is still time for DeVante Parker of the Dolphins to make an impact, and just when fantasy owners could use him most.

College Touchdown Machine

One reason Parker is very intriguing for fantasy football purposes is his production in college. Parker proved to be adept at finding the end zone in his four years at Louisville, as an astounding 21.2% of his receptions resulted in touchdowns. Even when Parker didn't hit paydirt, his catches often resulted in big plays, as 26.3% of his receptions went for 25 yards or more, and 75% resulted in first downs. 

Parker's measurables fit the profile of a classic big-bodied NFL receiver. While his speed is solid -- he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash at the combine -- it's his 6'3", 209 pound frame and 80" wingspan that gives him the biggest edge over NFL cornerbacks. In his draft profile, they called Parker's catch radius "daunting," and also noted his "soft hands and elite concentration."

Transitioning to the NFL

Parker was selected 14th overall by the Dolphins, but he went under the knife just a month later, which was related to the foot injury that caused him to miss half of his senior season. The surgery caused Parker to miss most of training camp, which is obviously a hindrance to any rookie's ability to make an immediate impact in their first season. While Parker was fully healthy when the regular season began, he only saw one snap in Week 1, and quickly found himself buried on the depth chart behind Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills, and Rishard Matthews

Parker's injury, combined with the quietly solid production of Matthews, conspired to keep his abilities from seeing much game action. Through the first 11 weeks of the season, the only noteworthy performance by Parker was in Week 3, when he registered three receptions for 46 yards on seven targets in garbage time, in a lopsided loss to the Bills. A lost season for the Dolphins was also looking like a lost season for their prized rookie receiver.

Week 13 Brings New Opportunity

While the Dolphins continued their lackluster play in Week 12, getting blown out by the Jets, Parker was finally given an opportunity to log some meaningful action. He was on the field for 82.9% of Miami's snaps and was targeted 10 times, resulting in four receptions for 80 yards and his first NFL touchdown.

A rib injury to Matthews opened the door for the increase in snaps for Parker, and Matthews is now out indefinitely -- Parker has already been named the starter this week. Whether the Dolphins made this move of their own volition or if it was strictly due to the injury to Matthews doesn't matter much to fantasy owners. The bottom line is that Parker has a huge opportunity this week, and possibly for the remainder of the season. 

Parker's opportunity couldn't have come at a better time. Not only are the fantasy football playoffs on the horizon, but each of Miami's opponents (the Ravens, Giants, and Chargers) over the next three weeks are ranked in the bottom half of the league in pass defense according to our metrics

The Dolphins square off against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 13, a team that has allowed the third most fantasy points to wide receivers this season. Mix in the opportunity, and you have a great sneaky starter for the week.

The Dolphins have been all but eliminated from the playoff race, and they just fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor this week. With five games to play, Miami's already building for the future. And Parker is a key building block for that future, meaning he could get all the work he can handle the rest of the way.