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Chase The Targets: DeVante Parker is Finally a Bargain

DeVante Parker has been overdrafted for years now, and his underperformance has made him completely toxic to some owners. “Ugh, I drafted him last year and he killed my team. Never again!” is a common refrain from recovering Parkerites. Whether you’ve cursed his name in the past or not though, now is the time to buy, as the price finally matches the potential.

Remember how Todd Gurley was one of the least efficient backs in the league in 2016? How about the first two disastrous seasons of Nelson Agholor’s and Davante Adams’ careers?adamsandagholor

If there’s one thing we preach here at RotoViz when it comes to PPR leagues, it’s that targets are the lifeblood of fantasy scoring. There’s really no way to overstate this. We, and that includes everyone projecting seasonal outcomes for individual players, are much worse at projecting efficiency than we are at projecting volume.

These are cherry-picked examples, but they illustrate the larger trends illustrated in the links above. Agholor and Adams were two of the least efficient wide receivers in the league in their first two seasons, but both made spectacular turnarounds in year three. Parker on the other hand, was actually reasonably efficient in his first two seasons, his main issue was injury and a lack or targets.

Parker Hasn’t Been Bad … When Healthy

Let’s go back to 2015. Drafters were riding high off the success of the 2014 rookie WR class and looking to get the next big thing that would win them their league. Jarvis Landry was still viewed by many1 as an unathletic slot WR who was just living off of undeserved volume and destined to be passed on the depth chart by Parker. As a rookie, Parker was being taken in the single-digit rounds.

devanteparkerstats

Then Parker’s rookie year started off on the wrong foot. Literally. He had foot surgery before the season and wasn’t fully recovered for the start of the year. The team tried to ease him into action, but he barely saw any snaps for the first 11 Weeks of the season, missed multiple games, and suffered a setback in Week 8. That all changed in Week 12 when a fully recovered Parker stepped in for an injured Rishard Matthews.ParkerSplits2

Those final six weeks had him riding high into the 2016 offseason which saw him getting selected as early as the fourth round in some drafts. Drafters were ready for the inevitable Year 2 breakout. So what happened?

Parker actually had a fairly efficient season, but the target volume just wasn’t there. Every Dolphins WR suffered as the team turned to the running game to grind out a 10-6 record as they vastly outperformed their point differential. The Dolphins were second to last in the NFL in pass attempts with 477, just three ahead of the woeful Bills and a full 100 attempts below the median.2 Despite sharing the field with target-hog Landry, Parker’s market share ranked 30th among WRs. There just weren’t enough targets to go around.

Which brings us to the only year in which he was actually bad, which also happens to be the most recent one. There were a few things working against Parker though.

Just one month before the start of the season, the Dolphins were forced to replace their starting quarterback with a guy who had already retired. Jay Cutler stumbled through 2017 with the Dolphins, putting up an abysmal 5.6 Adjusted Yards per Attempt,3 and then re-retiring so he could be a reality TV star.

Parker also exited the fourth game of the year early with an ankle injury that would keep him out of the following three games and limit him for the remainder of the season.4 It’s a vanishingly small sample, but in the three healthy games he played, it looked like the long-awaited breakout was finally starting.ParkerSplitsFinally, while Parker has not been a prolific touchdown scorer thus far in his career, his 2017 rate was undeniably fluky. Parker was almost dead last in TD rate for the season, and we know that TD rate is highly variable. Unsurprisingly, Parker is one of Michael Dubner’s top candidates to benefit from regression to his TD rate in 2018.

PLAYERSEASTRGSRECSreYDSreTDSreTDRT
Terrance Williams2017785356800
Ricardo Louis2017612735700
Corey Davis2017653437500
Pierre Garcon2017674050000
DeVante Parker2017965767010.01
Kendall Wright2017915961410.011
Adam Humphries2017836163110.012
Eric Decker2017835456310.012
Seth Roberts2017654345510.015
Seth DeValve2017583339510.017
Chris Godwin2017553452510.018
Marquise Goodwin20171055696220.019
Julio Jones201714888144430.02
Taylor Gabriel2017513337810.02
Dede Westbrook2017512733910.02
Emmanuel Sanders2017924755520.022
Danny Amendola2017866165920.023
Sterling Shepard2017845973120.024
Zay Jones2017742731620.027
Adam Thielen201714391127740.028
Tyler Lockett2017714555520.028
Roger Lewis2017723641620.028
Torrey Smith2017683643020.029
Deonte Thompson2017683855520.029
Jamison Crowder20171036678930.029
Marqise Lee2017965670230.031
J.J. Nelson2017612950420.033
Trent Taylor2017604343020.033
DeSean Jackson2017905066830.033
Brandon LaFell2017895254830.034
Michael Thomas2017149104124550.034
Corey Coleman2017572330520.035
Demaryius Thomas20171408394950.036
Keelan Cole2017834274830.036
Martavis Bryant2017845060330.036
Bruce Ellington2017562933020.036
Allen Hurns2017563948420.036
Larry Fitzgerald2017161109115660.037
Ty Hilton20171095796640.037
Mike Evans201713671100450.037
Keenan Allen2017159102139360.038
Kelvin Benjamin2017784869230.038
Rashard Higgins2017502731220.04
Golden Tate201712092100350.042
Jeremy Maclin2017724044030.042
Mike Wallace2017925274840.043
Randall Cobb2017926665340.043
Dez Bryant20171316883960.046
Rishard Matthews2017875379540.046
Albert Wilson2017624255430.048
Jermaine Kearse20171026581050.049
Mohamed Sanu2017966770350.052
Cooper Kupp2017946285850.053
Bennie Fowler2017562935030.054
John Brown2017552129930.055
A.J. Green201714375107580.056
Jarvis Landry201716111298790.056
Antonio Brown2017162101153390.056
Kenny Stills20171055884760.057
Ted Ginn2017705378740.057
Tyrell Williams2017694372840.058
Jaron Brown2017693147740.058
Robert Woods2017855678150.059
Brandin Cooks201711465108270.061
Robby Anderson20171146394170.061
Ryan Grant2017654557340.062
Travis Benjamin2017653456740.062
Cole Beasley2017633631440.063
Tyreek Hill201710575118370.067
Jordy Nelson2017885348260.068
Doug Baldwin20171167599180.069
Devin Funchess20171126384080.071
Amari Cooper2017964868070.073
Alshon Jeffery20171205778990.075
Paul Richardson2017804470360.075
DeAndre Hopkins2017174961378130.075
Josh Doctson2017783550260.077
Michael Crabtree20171015861880.079
Marvin Jones201710761110190.084
Nelson Agholor2017956276880.084
Stefon Diggs2017956484980.084
Davante Adams201711874885100.085
Chris Hogan2017593443950.085
Juju Smith-Schuster2017795891770.089
Sammy Watkins2017703959380.114
Will Fuller2017502842370.14

Here Come The Targets

Would it surprise you to learn that in the 12 full games Parker played last year, despite being limited by injury and competing with Landry, he was on pace for 127 targets, which would have been 13th best among all WRs? A large part of that is thanks to the Dolphins attempting 125 more passes than the previous season. While they were fourth in the league in pass attempts, it was a down year for passing in general, and their 604 attempts would have ranked just 15th overall as recently as 2015, so it wouldn’t require an outlier performance to repeat.

There’s not much reason to expect them to pass a lot less in 2018. Vegas books have set the line for the Dolphins at around 6 wins, towards the bottom of the league. There should be suffcient negative game scripts to keep the Dolphins in attack mode.

More importantly though, there are plenty of targets up for grabs. Landry’s departure frees up a massive 161 targets which are unlikely to be fully absorbed by his presumptive replacements, Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola. Even if the Dolphins spread the ball more to their running backs, or the ultra-efficient Kenny Stills, it’s difficult to envision a scenario where Parker’s share of targets doesn’t increase if he’s able to stay on the field just due to the sheer number of targets vacated by Landry.

On top of that, the absence of Landry and Julius Thomas leaves plenty of targets near the end zone available, and Parker’s usage suggests he could be the player most likely to benefit.ParkerEndZoneTrgtsJust a modest bump in Parker’s market share could easily have him seeing somewhere in the neighborhood of 140 targets, with a solid share of looks near the goal line. If we take his career efficiency, including his down 2017, he has the potential to be a high-end WR2. If he can repeat his efficiency from 2016 with an increased target volume, he could put up WR1 type numbers.

PLAYER SEAS TRGS RECS YDS TDS PPR
DeVante Parker 2018 140 83 1142 5 226
DeVante Parker 2018 140 89 1184 6 246

Summing It Up

Parker is a guy I’ve avoided in previous years, but the hate on him has finally gone too far. Just as he’s entering the most favorable target situation of his career, his price is at its lowest since he was a rookie coming into the league fresh off foot surgery. It’s hard to make a case for the WRs being drafted around him in the eighth and ninth rounds to have the same target upside as Parker. ParkerMFL10ADP

 

There are risks, as fourth year breakouts aren’t very common for WRs, but there are still examples of success stories, including some of the best WRs in the game. Parker has spent a lot of time on the trainer’s table, however the injuries have not been recurring and it’s way too soon to say he’s definitively injury prone.5

The Miami front office showed enough confidence in him to pick up his fifth-year option and did not bring in any WRs via the draft or free agency that are candidates to challenge his role on the team. While we’ve all wearied of hearing the offseason hype for Parker year after year only to be let down, it shouldn’t blind us to the fact that he’s a 25-year-old former first-round pick projected to be the most targeted WR on a team that’s coming off a season where they attempted the fourth most passes in the league.

Everyone else’s fatigue with his breakout hype is your advantage. The upside is finally worth the price.

  1. I won’t name names, but it was widespread.  (back)
  2. Also of note, Matt Moore was responsible for 87 of those attempts.  (back)
  3. Among QBs who started at least 10 games, the only worse players were Trevor Siemian, Joe Flacco, Brett Hundley, and DeShone Kizer.  (back)
  4. Parker was held out of practice as late as Week 16 as it continued to bother him.  (back)
  5. People said the same thing about Keenan Allen heading into 2017.  (back)

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