Soon after targeting DeVante Parker four times in limited action, and having another big gain wiped out by penalty, Jay Cutler made this comparison:
I’ll be honest, I initially scoffed at the notion. One, because it came out of Cutler’s mouth and two, Parker hasn’t produced enough in the NFL to be talked about in the same breath as Alshon Jeffery…yet. But is that all about to change? After all, Jeffery did lead the Bears in targets in both 2014 and 2015, the last two seasons where Cutler played at least 15 games. Even more incredible, Jeffery still managed to accomplish this feat in 2015, despite only playing in nine games.
This comparison reminded me of my initial reaction after Cutler signed with Miami, which was that it improved Parker’s stock and hurt the stock of Jarvis Landry. Yet, at the time I thought it was just a gut feeling – and it very well still could be – but let’s take a deeper dive into this Parker/Jeffery comparison and see what the data shows, shall we?
College Measurables and Production
Per the RotoViz Box Score Scout, we see why it wasn’t difficult for Cutler to make this quick comparison. Parker and Jeffery are both big-bodied WRs that fit the alpha prototype, as they have extremely similar heights and weights.
But what else? Per our friends over at Player Profiler, Jeffery ran a 4.53 40-Yard Dash whereas Parker came in at 4.45. And although Jeffery bests Parker in Career Market Share Receiving Yards, Parker tops Jeffery in all of the other production metrics. Plus, Brian Malone recently reminded us of Parker’s mouth-watering NFL comparables.
Despite Parker not breaking out just yet in the NFL, this data helps put into perspective why he was the higher draft pick.
Production Through First Two Seasons
As for what Parker has done through his first two seasons compared to Jeffery, despite Parker playing in two fewer games and coming off of a foot fracture surgery, their rookie years were extremely similar. In fact, Parker bested Jeffery in a lot of areas.
But then Jeffery took the leap in his sophomore season, coming close to doubling up Parker’s second year in both targets and receiving yards. Still, Parker held his own in Fantasy Points Over Expectation per Attempt and TD Rate. These adjusted per target statistics paint a positive picture that with increased volume, improved health, and a slightly higher Yards per Target, Parker has the chance to break out just one year later into his NFL career than Jeffery did.
With the possibility of Parker’s opportunities increasing this season based on his own development in year three, as well as Cutler’s history throwing voluminously to similar WRs such as Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, this is a situation worth keeping an eye on. Despite Cutler’s career 7.2 AY/A being very similar to Ryan Tannehill‘s number of 7.0, Cutler has shown a propensity to throw the deep ball to his prototypical alpha receivers, giving them a chance to go get it.
Due to the run-first nature of the Dolphins offense, I haven’t been interested in Parker at his WR36 ADP this offseason, especially considering the on-field rapport Tannehill and Landry seemed to share. But now with Cutler at the helm, who is instantly talking up Parker, and who played in 11 games back in 2013 when Jeffery shot onto the scene as a fantasy star (Jeffery finished as the PPR WR8 that season), it’s important to note a higher ceiling now looks to be in Parker’s range of outcomes. After all, he boasts a more impressive college resume than Jeffery and was also the higher NFL draft pick.
As for Landry’s fourth-round ADP, tread lightly my friends. I preferred Larry Fitzgerald and Stefon Diggs, players going after him, even before Cutler arrived in Miami. I’m even warier now.