Now that free agency has slowed in the NFL, it is time to shift the Cleveland Browns focus to the 2015 NFL Draft. Owners of two picks in the first round (Nos. 12 and 19) and 10 total, general manager Ray Farmer and the Browns front office will have an opportunity to add a number of impact playmakers to their roster—especially at the wide receiver position.
After losing talented but troubled wide receiver Josh Gordon to a full-season suspension, Farmer and the Browns have been linked to all of the top receivers in the 2015 NFL Draft. Though the narrative is that Farmer is anti-drafting a wide receiver early, that could change with the talent found staring the team square in the face this offseason.
Despite the fact the team inked Dwayne Bowe and Brian Hartline to deals in free agency, the Browns will be looking to add an impact player with No. 1 receiver upside with the No. 12 pick in the draft. For this very reason, today we will take a look into Louisville’s DeVante Parker as a potential option for the Cleveland Browns with the No. 12 overall pick.
For this scouting session, the four 2014 games available on Draft Breakdown were utilized (N.C. State, Florida State, Kentucky and Georgia). As always, to get the full experience you should head over to their fantastic website and view the excellent cut-ups and film available there. With limited access to collegiate All-22 film, they are hands down one of the best resources out there for anyone looking to get more information than the highlight videos found plastered all over Youtube.
Standing 6’3” and 209 pounds, Parker’s size and speed stand out play in and play out. He consistently displays explosion and separation at the line of scrimmage, giving him an early advantage on any defensive back attempting to cover him. No matter what the call from the Louisville route tree, Parker finds a way to put himself ahead of his defender right away—and displayed it against top level opponents in these four games, something that people should certainly note.
What jumps off the film when catching passes is his ability to high-point the ball and snag it out of the air. He also displays excellent body control, and is very smooth locating and re-adjusting to the ball while in the air—something he had to do a lot thanks to sub-par quarterback play this season. He did this time and time again, taking would be incompletions or interceptions and turning them into big plays for his offense.
One of the underrated aspects of Parker’s game is his willingness to fight for his teammates when the ball is not coming his way. A constant knock on Gordon during his tenure in Cleveland, Parker does not take non-passing plays or passes not coming his way off. He is a willing blocker who plays through the whistle, often engaging in battles outside whether the ball is coming his way or not. This is seen nearly every play, which does not tip off the direction or type of play—thus forcing the defense to continue to key in on him.
His physicality and motor are not only shown while blocking and attacking the ball though, they are shown once he gets the ball in his hands in the open field. Parker takes on a running back’s mentality with the ball, clawing and fighting for every extra yard. As you can see in the GIF below, he has the shake and quickness to make defenders miss in the open field—turning short screens into big plays on a regular basis. He will pile up yards after the catch throughout the course of the game, which is why whoever drafts him will need to target him early and often in multiple ways—not just lining him up on the outside and having him run go routes.
In the Kentucky game specifically, there was a lot to love about Parker’s game. Though the defensive back was getting physical with him early and knocking him off of some routes, he continued to fight and attempt to do his job when the ball was not coming to him. He also utilized the defensive back’s physicality to his advantage, getting him back in the second quarter with a setup route of sorts, shedding the defensive back when he attempted to engage and shedding him for a big-time touchdown as you can see in the video below.
Parker also shows an early refinement of double moves—something that traditionally does not come until a few years in the league. He is strong when planting on his routes, which allows him to sell one way and power out of the break for extra separation when going the other way. This is a trait that will be absolutely integral to his development as a No. 1 wide receiver in the NFL, because we all know that the window for the ball to get there gets smaller at the next level, and doing a “little thing” like this will only help out his quarterback.
Another impressive aspect of Parker’s game could be seen in the Belk Bowl against Georgia. You will constantly see his physicality stand out throughout the game, but an early pass to the front corner of the endzone displayed it at another level. Though he stepped out and the touchdown was called back, he fought for his position and used his ability to snag the ball out of the air to secure the touchdown.
As with all prospects, there are negatives or areas to grow on when watching the games. Aside from the foot injury during his 2013 season which cost him more than half of his 2014 season, there are a few things Parker will have to work on at the next level to establish himself as a premier No. 1 wide receiver in this league.
One of the main concerns for me stood out early in the Kentucky game, as it seemed he allowed the defensive back to get in his head early with more physicality. He eventually got him back on the touchdown pass in the video from earlier in the article, but the physicality clearly frustrated him and forced him off of routes from time to time. NFL defensive backs will get up in his face from Day 1, so this is something that needs to be fixed during training camp.
He will also need to polish his route-running skills at the next level. While he ran a lot of solid routes, he would round some off from time to time. This is not a major concern, as he did not have the best quarterback play last season, but it is still something to watch at the next level because he will be asked to do a lot more—and a simple rounding of a route will open a path to the ball for defensive backs in the NFL.
My final concern for Parker was a few lazy efforts on underthrown balls or passes that were thrown behind him. In the Georgia game, there was a pass thrown behind him that he could have caught (in fact he caught the same exact placement later), instead he made a lazy effort and it went off his hands for an interception. Earlier in the same game, he also made little attempt to get back and “play defense” on an underthrown pass by his QB which resulted in an interception.
On top of my concerns/negatives, Dane Brugler from CBS Sports notes, “…Usually reliable hands and focus, but will allow the ball into his body at times and tends to have concentration lapses. Better with the ball away from his body where he can extend and attack.”
Overall, Parker should be regarded as one of the Top 10 prospects in the 2015 NFL Draft. His ability to be an impact playmaker from Day 1 is an absolute premium—especially after the emergence of rookie receivers in the 2014 class. He has a rare blend of size, speed and a knack for making big things happen after the catch—and has room to grow and add bulk with his 6’3” and 209-pound frame.
With 4.45 speed, silky smooth running and workouts at the combine, Parker was lauded as putting himself in the conversation for the first wide receiver selected with Kevin White and Amari Cooper. For this reason, it is quite possible Parker may not even be available when the Browns are selecting at No. 12.
Though trading up for a receiver is usually not recommended, with teams like the Oakland Raiders, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and the St. Louis Rams picking ahead of the Browns, if they want to secure Parker—it may take moving up to No. 9 with the New York Giants to secure him before Minnesota and St. Louis make it to the podium with his name on their draft card.
Drawing comparisons to A.J. Green from many analysts, if the Browns can get Parker at No. 12 it would be an absolute steal. And if they have use a mid-round pick to couple with No. 12 to move up to No. 9 to secure him—Farmer and company should not only consider it, they should have a deal with the Giants in their pocket if he makes it past the Raiders at No. 4 and the Bears at No. 7.