Mid Air Adjustment for Catch
Parker in general does an excellent job of getting his body in position for the catch and then turning and making a play on the ball. Both plays one and two show his great jumping ability, as well as his knack for timing his jumps so that he catches the ball at its highest point. On the third play, even though the ball is off target and falls incomplete, he shows incredible athletic ability to even get a hand on the ball and almost reel it in. There are just so many plays that display Parker’s knack for adjusting for the catch midair. It really is his most impressive feature.
Catch in Traffic/Contested
Parker also possesses the toughness necessary to make catches in traffic over the middle. Once he makes the catch, he is often able to fight through the contact, as in the TD against Kentucky. Otherwise, he generally does a good job of requiring more than one DB to tackle him, even if he doesn’t gain any yardage after the catch.
Fails to get separation off of LOS
By far the biggest complaint I have about Parker’s play is his consistent failure to get separation on shorter routes, particularly crossing routes. The problem lies in his release off of the line of scrimmage. You can see it clearly in the first two plays, where PJ Williams is covering him. After he chops his feet to get WIlliams to hesitate, he needs to explode with the next step to gain separation. He doesn’t do the greatest job of fooling Williams on an outside route, either. Despite giving up an initial step, Williams is able to recover and knock the ball away on both plays. On the third route, he simply seems lazy in his break. This is something Parker seems to consistently struggle with, and it prevented him from being targeted a number of times and also led to a number of pass breakups. If he wants to succeed in the NFL he will need to polish this aspect, because teams can account for a one-trick-pony.
Pro Comparison and Draft Projection
Pro Comparison: A.J. Green. I really, really like DeVante Parker as a prospect coming into this draft. I believe he’s a true Split End who has the ability to not only beat defenders deep, but also make really spectacular catches on jump balls and has moves after the catch. He is by no means a perfect prospect, and particularly struggles on shorter, underneath routes. He also has a bit of a thin frame. If you’re looking for a really lofty NFL comparison, look no further than AJ Green. I don’t think Parker is nearly as good as Green is right now, or as good as Green was coming out, but they both have very similar frames (6’3″ 209 for Parker vs. 6’4″ 207 for Green) and both have a knack for making spectacular catches on jump balls.
Draft Projection: Middle first round. Whether he lives up to those expectations depends on his ability to become a more complete route runner.