I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
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DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville - 6'3, 212 - Senior - 4.45 40
There are certainly a lot of talented wide receivers at the college level these days and while there is a feeling amongst some football minds that it is folly to over-pay and over-value this position based on this high supply to meet the demand, we must not lose sight of what special means. Special is a term we throw around a lot, but in football it means everything. It is the ability to defy the Xs and Os. Often, when we structure offensive strategy, there is a hope to deceive and perhaps to leave you with a real math problem where you caught the defense in a deployment issue where they simply don't have enough troops dedicated to a certain area of the field which you will now exploit. This is the very basis of Chip Kelly's system and the zone read in general - trying to catch you out of place or not on your guard.
But, that is different than requiring special talents. That actually is a design that is based on "plug and play" pieces that are interchangeable. But, "Special" is all about defying the Xs and Os. The defense does have enough guys deployed to deal with this special player, but he just beats them all with his amazing skills and talent. That is who you value. That is who you pay. And that is the type of player you consider taking with a high 1st round pick.
So, in this draft, we are looking for special wide receivers. And I believe we have found another one with DeVante Parker, a player who missed the 1st 7 games in 2014 with a broken bone in his foot. But, when he returned, he put up 855 yards in short order and thrust his way back up high in this draft. I looked at Florida State, Kentucky, and Georgia for this study.
What I liked: Parker is a large man who has all of the physical traits. He is tall, thick, fast, long arms, and quick in short spaces. He is elusive underneath and runs tunnel screens and quick outs as well as any 6'3 receiver you will encounter. Then, he dominates with down field skills that are really impressive because he can push any corner off his path and then go up and get the ball at the high point with ease. His hands are fantastic and natural and his arm length is comical. Very seldom do you find a receiver that you can't press because he is too quick and strong, but you also can't out-run because he is a 4.4 guy. Parker is flat-out dominant in most of his games. On top of this, he is a very willing and effective blocker and a terror underneath. Then, his best attribute might be his YAC (yards after catch) game which makes you think he is a slot receiver for his elusive skills. Defensive backs drip off him as they try to tackle him in space and you must put a safety over the top because he can out-leap and out-reach single coverage.
What I did not like: You really have to reach to find something to complain about with Parker. He is, at the very least, "fine" in every measurable category and trait. Perhaps, we at least sound the alarm that we wonder about his durability because he takes a beating with the way he fights for every yard. Sometimes, you can save your health if you go down a bit easier, so we need to watch that. Beyond that, I don't see anything to reasonably complain about. He really does it all.
Summary: When ranking Amari Cooper versus DeVante Parker, you are honestly ranking two fantastic prospects against each other. I see the consensus is that Cooper is the "best in class" and although (as you have read) I believe Cooper is the real deal, I would personally lean in Parker's direction as the better player and the guy I would select first. I find him better underneath, quicker and more elusive in short spaces, having better hands, and 2 inches taller. That isn't to say I don't believe Cooper is also a top receiver, but for me, let the history books show that I am going to be ranking Parker higher. I think this guy has real star qualities and no deficiencies at all. He is a dominant receiver who should only get better in the NFL where he gets more favorable throws and opportunities to shine. I think he is slightly under-valued because he is not on that Alabama stage and also missed half of his senior year, but make no mistake - DeVante Parker is special.
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