The process leading up to the 2015 NFL draft is just getting underway. From now until May, the Minnesota Vikings will put countless prospects through the paces to determine their best course of action.
Ultimately, Louisville receiver DeVante Parker should stand out as a quality candidate in the first round.
First of all, the Vikings need a bona fide No. 1 receiver. That makes an early selection at the position likelier.
Boasting the 11th overall pick, Minnesota will have certain qualities in mind in its evaluation of receivers. Size, strength, route-running ability and the ability to play big rise above the rest in the team’s pursuit of a top-level receiver.
If unable to find those qualities in a receiver early on, then a high pick on a receiver hardly makes sense for the Vikings. Any rookie brought in needs to be a clear upgrade over the likes of Charles Johnson and Cordarrelle Patterson to add significant value to Minnesota’s offense.
The unit is not lacking receivers. It just needs a true No. 1.
Parker is listed at 6’3” and 211 pounds. He physically profiles as the type of receiver who can handle a high percentage of targets at the pro level. That size aids his ability to make plays when not open in a traditional sense. A long reach helps, too.
Because of his physical tools and nuanced skills as a receiver, Parker will be the type of receiver around whom a passing game can be built.
Two plays from Parker’s final season at Louisville stand out as important from a Vikings viewpoint. Each features Parker pulling employing techniques that Minnesota receivers frequently struggled with in 2014.
He shows the skills of a true No. 1 receiver on each sequence.
The first play is a simple slant pattern.
Aside from with slot receivers, who rarely faced press coverage, slant patterns were like pulling teeth for Minnesota in 2014. The outside receivers struggled with the aggressive position of cornerbacks and then often failed to extend their hands to make catches in consistently restricted spaces.
Parker separates with ease and shows off his pass-catching technique here:
A slant pattern is not a groundbreaking play, but it keeps offenses on the field and gives outlets to a quarterback. When teams have a receiver who can consistently beat coverage and free himself inside of 10 yards, it makes the quarterback’s job so much easier.
Parker frequently victimized college defenses with slants in 2014. His play greatly aided a Louisville offense that had no continuity at the QB position.
The next play is the real money-maker. It’s why Parker should so quickly catch the eye of offensive coordinator Norv Turner and why he could change the offense’s dynamic in the future:
Notice the way he beats tight coverage inside of five yards against a talented cornerback in Florida State’s P.J. Williams. He beats Williams with his feet by setting up his move and making a strong cut to release outside.
That ability to win early in routes is something Minnesota still lacks across the board at the receiver position.
When the Vikings’ receiver corps was at its worst in 2014, no receivers were beating man coverage and giving Teddy Bridgewater windows to pass into. The addition of Parker would be invaluable in that regard.
He also fits seamlessly into Minnesota’s offense, which aims to attack defenses vertically before progressing to underneath routes more often than not. Parker strides out as a route-runner and can pull away down the field, which perfectly fits the tree of routes he would run as a Vikings receiver.
Parker brings one more significant piece to the puzzle: his ability to go get the ball in the air.
The Louisville receiver plays the big game as a receiver, fully utilizing his size. He gets off the ground well to sky above cornerbacks and is always extending his hands out to pluck the football.
Parker’s aerial skills are the reason he scored 33 touchdowns in his collegiate career. His value as a red-zone target is appealing.
So many of Parker’s on-field skills closely match what Minnesota is looking for in a receiver. On top of all that, his experience with Bridgewater at Louisville only adds value.
The two broke out together in their sophomore seasons with the Cardinals. They then proceeded to top that performance a year later:
|Parker Receiving Stats|
Bridgewater was still spreading the ball around plenty. He will always be that type of quarterback. His DNA tells him to read coverage and throw into appropriate windows, no matter the receiver.
That does not necessarily make Parker a luxury because Parker can run such a wide variety of routes and get open within the structure of the offense. He also brings red-zone value, which Bridgewater leaned on at the college level.
The final plus for a potential Parker pick relates to the supply of receivers in the draft.
With so many collegiate offenses employing spread sets and emphasizing the passing game, more talented prospects are entering the NFL than ever before. They also are possessing more developed skills to make a quicker impact.
However, big-bodied receivers—especially those who can play the big and small game like Parker—are less common.
To draft a bigger receiver who is developed to the degree that he can make an impact early in his NFL career, teams have to spend early picks. Parker will be no exception to that for the Vikings.
Due to his seamless fit into Turner's offense, diverse skill set and experience with Bridgewater, Parker would ultimately be worth the high selection for Minnesota.