Early in the offseason, a DeVante Parker vs. Demaryius Thomas debate circulated in the dynasty fantasy football community due to their similar startup ADPs in the second round. Parker became somewhat of a poster boy for obsession with youth in dynasty leagues, given his elevated status after just a 26-494-3 rookie season.
Eventually Parker’s ADP fell back into the mid-third round, presumably in part due to Miami’s decision to draft another infatuating young receiver in Leonte Carroo. In MFL10s, Parker’s ADP has settled into the mid-fifth.
Conservative drafters may note that’s still a pretty steep price to pay for a young player who saw limited time in his rookie season, and it’s a fair point. There are solid known commodities to be had full rounds later.
But Parker is on an upward trajectory that suggests superstardom in his future, and the circumstances of his rookie year might have actually caused an ADP situation that we’ll one day look back on as a discount. If you’re looking for this year’s Allen Robinson to emerge as the league’s next great young receiver, Miami’s the place to be. Let’s explore why.
Let’s Take ‘Em Back
Parker had a very strong collegiate production resume that led Fantasy Douche to note we would probably write 1,000 articles about him last offseason even before we found out his combine and draft information. A few months later, Shawn Siegele pitted that production against some of the best young WRs in the league, and found Parker stood up very well.
For those that recognize Carroo as a Dominator Rating star this offseason, Parker was the 2015 Carroo plus more athleticism and a top-15 overall draft pick. He missed some time in his senior season, but his market shares for receiving yards and TDs were both over 50 percent in the games that he played.1
In other words, any concern about Carroo coming in as a third-round pick and being a significant hindrance to Parker breaking out is likely steeped in recency bias. Parker’s resume is better, and he’s a year farther along at the pro level. While I’m a Carroo fan, he doesn’t look like a significant threat to Parker’s workload in the near term.
Speaking of Parker’s athleticism, let’s check out his Player Profiler page.
He’s a bit thin, but at 6 feet 3 inches tall, with 4.45-forty speed, and with 83rd percentile arm length, it makes sense Parker posted a 93rd percentile YPR in college (19.9). He’s a downfield monster, measuring up like the next A.J. Green or Alshon Jeffery.
Pat Kerrane noted last offseason that Parker’s Freak Score was actually better than Dez Bryant’s and Sammy Watkins’. While he was often compared to SPARQ darling Kevin White last year (in the debate for the class’s No. 2 WR behind Amari Cooper), Parker’s clearly a gifted athlete in his own right.
Rookie Season Injury
So he has the physical tools, the production resume, and the draft status. Why did he finish his rookie year with fewer than 500 yards and only 26 catches? Well, look at his game log:
Parker didn’t play much early in the season, after surgery on his foot last offseason. When our own Dr. Jeff Budoff wrote up the ramifications of Parker’s injury last June, he established the above game log as the expectation:
Miami’s first regular season game is in a little over three months, so Parker could be ready to play then. However, after missing so much preseason work, I’d imagine that his coaches will bring him along slowly. Especially, as they don’t want to risk any further setbacks to their number one pick. So Parker may well start slow, and not receive a full load of snaps until later in the year.
Dr. J wasn’t overly concerned about Parker long-term, but he nailed the way Parker’s rookie season would play out.2 A quick look at Parker’s Rotoworld page calls up a number of mid-season blurbs like this one, from the Friday before Week 10.
Establishing the health issue is important because it’s often erroneous to simply write off something like a lack of playing time to focus on a small subset of good games. In Parker’s case, it’s clear his final six games are the most representative sample of his rookie year.
Late-Season Production and Its Ramifications
As our sample of what a relatively healthy DeVante Parker can do at the NFL level, let’s isolate those final six weeks in the WR Sim Scores app and see what they tell us. The below graph is looking at year-over-year change in fantasy points/game, and Parker averaged over 14 PPR FPPG in that six-game span. So we should expect his comparables to be decent-sized, young receivers who had very strong year N seasons.
Oh, hi there DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, A.J. Green, Julio Jones, and Keenan Allen. In general, there are more negative than positive comps for Parker, but keep in mind the year-over-year aspect of the graph, as these N+1 seasons are being compared to a high bar. The projection summary for Parker’s 2016 comes out very favorably.
Based on his prospect profile and production in games he was targeted during his rookie season, Fantasy Douche found back in February that Parker’s portfolio resembled past emerging receivers. A week or so later, Kevin Cole’s validated model found Parker was a great bet to have a top-24 season in either his second or third year.
These things all boil down to Parker being an efficiency stud over the final six games. He averaged 3.7 receptions, 74 yards, and 0.5 TDs, with a robust YPT of 10.6. He averaged over 20 yards per reception, but that wasn’t just a skewed average – you can see in the table above he exceeded 20 YPC in five of the six games.
How many WRs have averaged a rate like that in their rookie year, on at least similar volume? Well, a quick search at Pro Football Reference for WRs who have posted at least 19 yards/reception on at least three receptions per game in their rookie seasons over the last 30 years returns… one result.
Over the final week-and-a-half of last season, Parker shredded defenses without discretion.
If you’ve been reading carefully, you know there are two elephants in the room. Number one is sample size. Parker’s phenomenal senior season Dominator Rating came on just a six-game sample, and the same was true for his rookie season dominance. The types of comparisons he elicits mostly did their work over a full season, and it’s something we haven’t seen from Parker.
Number two is opportunity. The drafting of Carroo is significant, but so is the presence of Jarvis Landry, no matter your opinion on him. While he was certainly inefficient in 2015, the fact remains he saw the sixth most targets in the NFL. Add in Carroo’s presence, a third-round draft investment in receiving back Kenyan Drake, and a new coaching staff that might favor more rushing, and things might be difficult on the opportunity front.
These are valid reasons to pump the brakes. On the flip side, the time he has spent on the field has been nothing short of outstanding. There’s a very real possibility his injury-limited rookie season in the only reason he’s not a first- or second-round pick in redraft leagues right now.
To me, Parker is a perfect pick for a Zero RB roster picking in the first half of drafts. After nabbing an elite WR in Round 1 and two more studs at the 2/3 turn, Parker has the requisite upside as a WR4 to start making Shawn Siegele’s goal of landing six of the eventual top 15 WRs a reality. If your goal is to win the Flex — as it should be — Parker is a gold-mine of flex-winning upside.
My projection for the 2016 Dolphins has Parker pegged for 23 percent of the targets, which starts at the roughly 19 percent Parker saw in the final six games of 2015 and projects some improvement.
Landry winds up around 147 targets in my projection – down 20 or so from 2015, but still a healthy WR1 share. The final line I came up with for Parker looks like this.
I regressed Parker’s catch rate up a bit (to 0.56), his YPT down a bit (to 9.5), and held his TD rate steady (at 0.06). There are certainly ways Parker could miss this mark, but I see potential upside beyond it, as well.3 This hedged projection would have been PPR WR20 in 2015.
- We loved Parker as a prospect from a production standpoint, a measureables standpoint, and a draft capital standpoint
- Our in-house doc noted Parker shouldn’t be expected to do much until later in his rookie season due to his foot injury
- Parker proceeded to blow the doors off the league for six weeks after returning, proving he can play at the NFL level
The third-round dynasty and fifth-round MFL10 ADPs are indeed steep prices to pay, but I’ll be making sure to get my shares of Parker this offseason. The hype is warranted, and if the ascendance comes, it will come quickly.
- A reminder that Dominator Rating averages the MS of receiving yards and TDs into one metric, so Parker’s Dominator Rating was also over 0.5, which is superstar level. (back)
- On very little information I might point out. Dr. Budoff is always a great read. (back)
- In fact, I could argue for anything – more targets, a higher catch rate, a YPT over 10, or a TD rate surge for Louisville’s record holder for career TD receptions. (back)