NFL Draft Preview 2015: WR DeVante Parker
The Sports Quotient's annual Draft Preview series returns! Over the course of the next 10 weeks, we will analyze the top NFL prospects at each position. This first week, the focus is on wide receivers. Our first prospect is DeVante Parker out of Louisville.
In his four years as a Cardinal, Parker caught 156 passes for 2,775 yards and 33 touchdowns. His sophomore and junior years were his most impressive. In 2012, Parker hauled in 40 receptions for 744 yards and 10 scores. In 2013, he increased his production in every category, grabbing 55 catches for 885 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 12 scores led the ACC and were good for 10th nationally.
Parker missed the first seven games of his senior year with a broken foot. Despite playing in only six games, he still managed 43 receptions for 855 yards and five scores, averaging 142.5 yards per game. Parker also increased his average yards per catch from 16.1 in 2013 to 19.9.
At 6'3", 211 pounds, Parker has excellent size and great hands to match (dropping only three passes since 2012, according to NFL.com). He has great acceleration and is a serious red-zone target. Parker has shown the ability to be a No. 1 target, racking up 10 100-yard games at Louisville, including one 200-yarder in a 2014 loss to Florida State.
Parker is also great in the open field. For example, check out this 36-yard touchdown against Cincinnati in 2013:
(GIF courtesy of Draft Breakdown)
One knock on Parker is the fact that he has not faced top-level defenders at the college level, so it is hard to know how much of his production is a result of playing against inferior talent. The one exception was his 214-yard game against FSU, a team that, while not among the best FBS teams defensively, allowed only 226.8 passing yards per game in 2014.
In addition to his lack of competition, Parker is not among the fastest receivers in his class. WalterFootball.com projects a 4.60-second 40-yard-dash time for Parker, significantly lower than fellow prospects Amari Cooper, Kevin White, and Devin Smith. He also struggles to run perfect routes, and he is not as quick out of the break as he could be. Parker is not lazy in his routes, but he could definitely work to improve in that area.
Parker is a first-round receiver and could very well be a top-15 pick. After last year's home run of a draft in terms of receiver talent, teams may be more likely to take a wideout early, and there are certainly teams near the top of the order in desperate need of a No. 1 target in the passing game. Parker's size and hands make him worthy of a high pick.
Tennessee and Oakland are both in need of receivers, but they either have more pressing needs or could take a better receiver than Parker at their respective spots. At this point, Parker is likely to be picked outside of the top 10, but in the top 20. Cleveland (12th and 19th) and Kansas City (18th) seem like the most likely landing spots for Parker, though San Francisco (15th) and Houston (16th) could be surprise suitors.
As for his best fit, San Francisco could be the top team. The 49ers may very well let Michael Crabtree walk in free agency, which would leave the team with a major lack of talent in the receiving corps. The 49ers are a run-first team, but Colin Kaepernick still needs targets in the passing game, and Parker could be a great young addition. With tight end Vernon Davis possibly nearing the end of his career, the Niners do not want to go into the 2015 season with 34-year-old Anquan Boldin as their only major receiving threat. Drafting Parker with the 15th pick would ease the burden on Boldin, while giving Parker a strong veteran from whom he can learn.