NFL Draft Preview: Louisville WR DeVante Parker

The 2015 NFL Draft is loaded with talented wide receivers. Combine superstar Kevin White dazzled with his speed, but is he a better prospect than Louisville WR DeVante Parker? Mark Schofield reviewed the film and goes deep on the prospect profile.

Profile

DeVante Parker was an offensive force for four years at Louisville. He caught only 18 passes his freshman season, but six went for touchdowns. The wide receiver played in all 13 games for the Cardinals as a sophomore, nabbing 40 passes for 744 yards and 10 scores. His junior year – Teddy Bridgewater’s last in college – Parker pulled in 55 passes for 885 yards and 12 scores.

Because of a foot injury, he missed the first seven games in 2014, but notched 43 receptions for 855 yards and five touchdowns over the final six games of his college career.

In his first game back, against North Carolina State, he snared nine passes for 132 yards. He followed up with an eight catch, 214-yard outing the following Thursday night in a loss to Florida State.  Parker torched Seminole cornerback P.J. Williams, a potential first-round choice in the upcoming draft, and showed full recovery from the injury. Parker also helped lead the Cardinals to a berth in the Belk Bowl against Georgia.

Tale of the Tape

Parker was a full participant in the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine, measuring 6’ 3” and 208 pounds, with an arm length of 33 1/4 inches and a whopping 80-inch wingspan. He posted a time of 4.45 seconds in the 40-yard dash, with a vertical leap of 36.5 inches.

What He Does Well

Beat the Press

With his combination of size and quickness, Parker wins most matchups off the line of scrimmage. For a young receiver hoping to establish himself as a top draft selection, the ability to beat man coverage at the line is a strong selling point:

 

Parker uses a stutter-step move to beat the cornerback in press-man coverage, then executes a crisp slant route while gaining separation from the North Carolina State defender. Also of note on this play (which we’ll revisit later) is the catch. Parker displays tremendous hands here, snaring the throw with his arms extended from his body and securing the ball as he gets dragged to the turf.

Just watch Parker put moves on the defender here:

 

Parker splits wide to the left and runs another slant route. He sells the defender on the outside release with a hard jab step toward the sideline. The cornerback falls for the fake, and is lost in space as Parker cuts sharply to the inside.

Lest you think this receiver only wins on slant routes, in the next clip he beats press coverage on a vertical:

 

Parker uses two moves on this touchdown play against Kentucky, first selling the cornerback on a slant route by leaning his body to the inside, then as the defender shifts his leverage to the middle of the field in response, a path clears for Parker to break deep along the outside. Second, the WR implements a stutter step at the five-yard mark, confirming to the cornerback a short pattern.

Parker then turns on the afterburners, gaining the necessary separation and hauling in the throw for a long touchdown. Parker expertly tracks the flight of the football over his shoulder and wins the hand-checking battle with the cornerback just prior to the reception. From snap to score, this is an outstanding play by the receiver.

Athletic Ability

Parker is tremendously athletic, as displayed on these next few plays. First is a catch-and-run against the Wolfpack:

 

He runs a short curl route against NC State’s Cover 3. After completing the catch he shakes off the strong safety, shrugs off the outside cornerback, and keeps his feet in bounds along the sideline to gain the yardage necessary for a first down.

The receiver is also an elusive ball carrier after the catch and very effective in the quick-screen game. Count how many Kentucky defenders he makes miss:

 

Parker pulls in the throw and breaks to the middle of the field. Along the way numerous Wildcat defenders are left grasping for the cool Louisville air as the receiver weaves his way through the secondary and to the opposite sideline for a first down.

Parker has a knack for making big plays at big moments, and this play came with the Cardinals clinging to a one-point lead and facing a third-down in their own territory in the third quarter. A receiver who can make big plays in big spots is a tremendous benefit to any offense.

Finally, Parker’s size and strength makes him a dangerous weapon over the middle. Here he runs a seam route from the slot:

 

Parker snatches the ball, absorbs a shot from the safety, and breaks a few more tackles on his way to the end zone. He is a tough player who is not afraid to make plays in traffic. That, coupled with his size and strength, makes him a solid target in the red zone, where the field is compressed.

The one negative in this play is a trait Parker displays at times: the slight hitch before the snap. This could draw a penalty, or telegraph the timing of the snap to an observant defense. This is a bad habit Parker needs to eliminate.

Ball Skills

With his wingspan, Parker often gets to throws other receivers might miss and he displays top-level ball skills at times. Watch how Parker secures this throw (the same play seen in the first clip) with his arms extended from his body:

 

Beating the press and handling the hard throw, Parker shows impressive arm and hand strength here, holding on to the football as he gets pulled down by the cornerback. The tackle prevents him from cradling the ball to his body, but Parker’s pure strength retains possession and prevents an incompletion or a fumble.

One more impressive catch from the North Carolina State game:

 

Wingspan in action is a beautiful thing. Parker runs another slant route, this time against off-man coverage. The throw is high and hard, directly over his head. This is a tough catch to make, but Parker secures the pass with ease.

Scouts and draftniks often talk about “high-pointing” the football. This play from the Kentucky game is an excellent example:

 

The receiver runs a go route along the left sideline. The throw is behind him, and high, but Parker displays remarkable body control as he turns back to the football. Parker then secures the ball at its highest point, before the defender can recover and make a play. Parker is not finished, however, shaking off the cornerback while returning to earth, turning upfield and racing into the end zone.

This next play, also from the Kentucky game, is another example of high-pointing the football:

 

Parker runs another go route along the left sideline, and again turns back to the throw to complete the catch. Cody Quinn, a junior and a third-year starter in the Wildcats secondary, can only watch.

A crucial element to any wide receiver’s game is the ability to track the football and execute the over-the-shoulder catch. Consider that box checked:

 

Parker is again matched up here against Florida State’s Williams. The receiver wins the battle at the line of scrimmage, using a stutter-step move that rocks the defender onto his heels. Gaining separation from Williams using his speed, Parker then tracks the throw to the sideline and pulls in the reception with the defender clutching at his back. This is a very difficult play brilliantly executed.

Question Marks

Durability

The WR suffered a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot before the 2014 season began, which required surgery. He also missed one game his junior year with a right shoulder injury. Because of his injury history, some scouts and draft writers express concerns over whether Parker can handle the rigors of the NFL. According to Dr. Christopher Geary, who we consulted for this profile, there is generally some long-term risk of recurrence with this type of foot injury, and Parker’s specific risk level will be assessed by a team of doctors and extensive medical records.

Consistency

In the game against the Wolfpack, Parker displayed some moments of weakness with his ball skills. While he generally attacks passes with his hands and tracks the ball well, some lapses were evident in his first game in 2014.

 

Running a slant route, Parker turns the short reception into a decent gain with yardage after the catch. But he lets the ball into his body, using his pads to help cradle the throw from his QB. He makes the play on this occasion, but letting the ball make contact with your body is a surefire way to generate incompletions and turnovers.

Next, the WR fails to high-point the football, and misses a scoring opportunity as a result:

 

Parker runs a go route along the right sideline and gains separation from the cornerback. The throw is late, but rather than working toward the football, Parker waits for it to come to him. This allows the cornerback to recover and break up the play.

Last example from this game, a contested go route along the left sideline:

 

The receiver wins off the line of scrimmage and has leverage to the outside. The throw, however, is drifting to the inside. Parker is slow to pick up the flight of the football, and is late cutting back to the pass. This gives the defender an opportunity to knock the ball to the turf.

Parker remains a top-level talent, but his focus and technique need to be more consistent for him to reach his potential.

Comparable Player

A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals

Projection

Parker is the third member of the top-flight WR trifecta in this year’s draft, joining Kevin White and Amari Cooper. Some draftniks place Parker atop that group, but I think he’s just a notch below the other two receivers. He is likely a top-15 selection in the draft, and I would not be surprised to see the Vikings reunite him with Bridgewater with the 11th selection. His combination of size, speed, wingspan and hands is rare; eliminating the minor mistakes and maintaining his compete level will determine how good he can be as a professional.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

 

Footage Courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com. Raw footage cut by Aaron Aloysius (@AaronAloysius), Andrew Worstell (@AndrewQ_) and @JMPasq. Give those guys a follow on Twitter.

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