The Fantasy Authority Player Profiles are back for 2020. TFA Player Profiles will highlight a specific player and whether or not that player will exceed their current ADP or if they will flop. Earlier this offseason, I took a look at A.J. Brown, and will follow that up with another wide receiver: the DeVante Parker Fantasy Outlook. Keep your eyes peeled for articles like these and several player profiles via our YouTube channel like this one @CKutzerFF produced on Chris Herndon.
The 2020 season is arguably the deepest we have seen for wide receiver in years. A sound strategy in leagues this year has been Zero-WR, where players tend to forego drafting receivers until the 5th round or so. With players such as DeVante Parker, Tyler Boyd, Terry McLaurin, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and countless others falling in this zone, there is no wonder why this strategy has been so prevalent.
Why DeVante Parker?
The answer is simple—opportunity and growth. Since entering the NFL in 2015, Parker has been highly touted by many as being the sleeper everyone couldn’t wait to get their hands on. However, whether it be because of injuries, poor QB play, a terrible head coach, or the lack of opportunities, Parker never truly panned out. That changed in 2019 when Parker, for the first time, cracked the top 50 fantasy receivers and finished as WR11. Although Parker finally had his breakout season and is bound to continue getting the opportunities, it seems like a lot of people are still afraid to take the former Louisville Cardinal. Currently, Parker is being drafted at 6.04 and is the 27th wide receiver taken according to 4for4 ADP. Whether you hate him or love him, whether you think he cracks WR1 territory again or not, being drafted 16 spots past his 2019 placement is a tough pill to swallow. It’s not often you can find a high-end WR2 with WR1 upside and WR3 draft capital.
2019 was by far Parker’s best year yet. He finished with 72 receptions, 1,202 yards, and nine touchdowns which were all career numbers. Parker crushed it last year, but he also got the opportunity to do that for the first time. Parker was 13th amongst WRs with 128 targets, and 17th with an 87.8% route participation. Not only was Parker running a tremendous number of routes on QB dropbacks, but he also got a ton of looks. What set Parker apart from some of the other players like him has been his speed. According to PlayerProfiler.com’s data analysis, there has been less than 30 players out of hundreds who are 6’3″ or taller and ran a faster 40 time than Parker. Parker turned that speed into an ability to stretch the field with 28 deep pass targets – good for 5th in the NFL. Parker earned himself the 4th most completed air yards and was top-20 in both yards per receptions (11th) and yards per target (18th).
2019 wasn’t all just about his opportunity, but also because of a significant level of growth. We always knew that Parker was talented, and his ADP over the years shows that we expected the talent to manifest. From his NFL debut in 2015 through 2017, his ADP steadily climbed the charts from WR46 to WR25 according to Fantasy Football Calculator PPR ADP. Although we had beliefs he would grow into what we saw in 2019, it never truly happened as he finished no higher than WR51. His lack of production caused his ADP to drop to WR61 in 2018 and undrafted in 2019. In 2018, Parker only had a 6.6 YPT and 12.9 YPR, more than 3 yards fewer per stat than 2019. We discussed previously his big jump in receiving downfield, which can be directly seen by the number of targets downfield. In 2018, Parker only had 22 targets of 10 or more yards. That all changed in 2019 with 60% (71 of 119) of his targets at least 10 yards downfield.
Past, Present & Future
A lot of unfortunate circumstances has hampered DeVante Parker. The Dolphins have been an atrocious organization for decades. Parker’s rookie season was no different with Joe Philbin starting but not finishing the year as the Head Coach. Dan Campbell, Philbin’s replacement lasted 12 weeks before the Dolphins moved on. Campbell’s replacement, Adam Gase has been a dumpster fire since earning the gig back in 2016 (sorry Jets fans). Despite Gase securing his legacy on the arm of Peyton Manning and an offensive explosion in Chicago, Gase has never been able to replicate the results from his early years as Offensive Coordinator for the Broncos and Bears. Under Gase, Parker received 90+ targets just once, with his worst year being in 2018 where he saw just 47 targets across 11 games.
2019 saw an entirely new coaching regime as the Bill Belichick coaching tree came to Miami with Brian Flores taking over the head coaching duties. Flores, more of a defensive coach, brought in Chad O’Shea with 12 years of coaching wide receivers for the Vikings and Pats. O’Shea turned the Dolphins offense around, adding nearly 13 passing attempts per game and going from the 30th to 4th in just one year. And for all his offensive success? O’Shea was fired.
Enter Chan Gailey, a 68-year-old offensive guru who has been coaching since 1989. The last time we saw Gailey was in 2015 and 2016 with the Jets. His QB? Ryan Fitzpatrick. Although 2016 was very much a letdown, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a career year for Gailey in 2015, throwing 3,900 yards and 31 touchdowns. In his two years with the Jets, Gailey’s offense produced three different 100+ target players, with Brandon Marshall having over 170 by himself in 2015. Gailey is known as one of the first to adopt the spread offense in the NFL. In 2016, Gailey ran 11 and 10 personnel (3 and 4 WR sets) 77% of their plays. Not only will Parker benefit from the Gailey run offense, but so will Preston Williams and Isaiah Ford.
QB-play has been one of Parker’s most consistently inconsistent situations; however, with Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball last year, he flourished. Fitzpatrick is expected to start the season as rookie first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa nurses injuries stemming from college. But when Fitzpatrick eventually passes the torch to the former Alabama signal-caller, Parker should get even more of a boost.
Parker is primed to dominate the way we expected him to do so for the first several years of his career. It seems as if the coaching situation has righted itself, the team’s front office is making smarter moves, and the team is getting better. If Tua can get healthy and be the player we’ve all thought he’d be, Parker is in a tremendous situation that will give him plenty of opportunity and plenty of growth. Parker should get triple digit targets again in 2020 and with improved QB play should turn his 60% catch percentage up a notch or two. If he does, he’ll hit high-end WR2 with a WR1 ceiling, easily.