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Devante Parker: The best wide receiver in the NFL Draft

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Going over the to 3 traits and explaining how Parker translates to the NFL

Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

The best receivers in the NFL all share 3 traits. While a fast 40, short shuttle, and explosive jumps help, none of these 3 traits I'm referring to are physical. They win before they catch the ball, usually early in the route with their feet, or with a head fake. They win at the top of the route by being efficient in and out of their breaks. The best receivers make every route look the same. They don't "tip their hand" as they go to break in a specfic direction. Finally, they make contested catches. If you can't make a catch in traffic, hold on after a big hit, or go up and get the ball consistently, you're not going to last long in the league.

Height Weight 40 yard dash Vertical Jump Broad Jump
Parker 6'3 209 4.45 36.5' 10'4
Average WR 6" 3/4' 201 4.5 35 10"

This is the average combine performance based on data collected from 2006-14. Parker didn't do any of the change of direction drills, but he exceeded expectations in everything else.

Let's get into the 3 traits and what Parker brings to the table.

Winning at the line of scrimmage

Whethter you run a 4.45, 4.65, or are Antonio Gates, if you can create separation early in the route, you're going to make life a lot easier on yourself. Most release techniques are as simple as taking 3 "in-out-in" steps on in breaking routes, "out-in-out" steps on out breaking routes, with the occasional 3 steps at 45 degrees to get the defensive back to over commit, before crossing his face and getting back to your route. Seriously. It's that basic. Yet we see receivers struggle with press coverage because of poor hand usage, or not knowing how to win with your feet. This is an area where Parker excels. In fact, of the 14 receivers I've seen in the draft, Parker is the best at the line of scrimmage. HE is quick and effici Here are 3 examples. Let's look at the below example of the "out-in-out" step.

Some receivers will take several steps to do what Parker did above. Not only does Parker take 3 steps, he's also gaining ground while he's doing so. Stressing the defender is a vital step to beating press coverage. The body control on the final step seals the deal and allows Parker to win with technique.

The next example is a slant route. Here you'll see more of the same with Parker. Quick feet, a nice head fake with his upper body, and finally the explosion on the next couple drive steps.

Watch his feet and nothing else. Then watch Parker's head and shoulders. Both times you'll notice how he not only pulls away from the DB but also makes him fall. Again, winning with technique.

The final example isn't a target, but shows just how good Parker can be off of the line of scrimmage. A jab step and head fake to the outside, and the defender over reacts, and can't recover without losing balance. That's a sign of quickness.

Watch the bottom of the screen. At 8 yards, Parker is already even with the safety, with the corner a few yards behind him still attempting to regain his balance. It's important for receivers to fire off the line of scrimmage, stay consistent with their form, even when they aren't getting targets, Parker has proved that.

Tipping your routes

Once Parker has you beat, he has a tendency to lean into where he's going, sometimes even peek back into the backfield, allowing the defender to make up ground. Parker isn't a bad route runner at all. He is inconsistent in this regard, though. Parker needs to be cleaner at the top of his route. The lack of technique shows here and it's why winning with athleticism doesn't cut it as a receiver. You won't find a top 10 receiver in the NFL that allows a DB to cross his face. As a rookie, a DB crosses Keenan Allen's face once all season. In 5 games with Parker I saw it a handful of times. Here are 2 worst case scenarios.  The below example is against a corner that is expected to go in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Parker opens up too soon, looks back for the pass, and that allows the defender to break on the ball and jump the route. Ideally, Parker would drive vertical longer and break sharper so the DB can't cross his face. This is a big no-no at the next level and will lead to interceptions.

The other example is near the goal line. This will support anybody who feels Parker isn't a crisp route runner. This is a "whip" route that takes Parker far too long to get in and out of his break.

What is that, 6 steps? Veteran DBs, or even quicker DBs, at the next level will be able to cross his face without a problem with routes like this. Parker needs to sell the in-breaking route much better. He also shouldn't take more than 3 steps at the top of his route. Luckily, he's got the frame to get away with this. If he's not successful at the next level, it'll be because of his inconsistency at the top of his routes.

Dominating the catch point

In 5 games I kept track this year, Parker had an opportunity to make 25 contested catches. These vary from 50/50 balls, to hanging onto a slant as a safety is coming downhill. Parker caught 14 of those. He is very comfortable catching the ball away from his body and doesn't have any issues holding on in traffic. Parker really uses his frame to his advantage and that allows him to win in multiple ways. Whether it's shielding the defender and tracking a pass over his shoulder, or climbing the ladder to high point a pass. His ability to adjust to poorly thrown passes and make it look routine is another special trait of his. Body control, timing, and securing the catch is something he made look routine during his stint at Louisville.

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It's also important to note that Parker has been credited with only 2 drops in his 3 years. His hands are very as reliable as it comes.

How He Fits as a Charger

Multiple Pro Bowl Player, Top 10 8.5 – 9.0
Highly Productive Starter, 1st Round 8.0 – 8.4
Very Good Starter, Early 2nd Round 7.8 – 7.9
Reliable Starter, 2nd Round 7.5 – 7.7
Potential Starter in Year 2, 3rd Round 7.0 – 7.4
Backup/Spot Starter, 4th Round 6.5 – 6.9
Productive Backup, 5th Round 6.0 – 6.4
Very Good Backup/STs, 6th Round 5.5 – 5.9
Quality Backup/Good STs, 7th Round 5.0 – 5.4
Backup/STs/Project Player, 7th Round 4.5 – 4.9
Priority Free Agent w/ Limitations 4.0 – 4.4
Non-Draftable 4.0

Trait Weight Grade
Route Running 4 3.6
Hands 3 2.8
Ball Skills 3 2.9
Separation Skills 2.5 2.3
Speed 2.5 2.3
YAC Ability 2 2
Athleticism 2 2
Versatility 2 1.8
Awareness 2 1.6
Blocking 2 1.8

Because I'm grading players specifically for how what they do would translate as a Charger, Parker grades out as an 8.31. That currently puts him number 3 out of 57. I haven't even mentioned how much of a nightmare he is after the catch. With the west coast principles San Diego relies on, you get the ball in his hands, sit back, and enjoy the show. He will need to get more consistent at the top of his route, but so much of his game translates to being a star at the next level. In this draft, with the lack of talent at the top, he's a guy you roll the dice on early.

I know Charger fans think that it's important to draft an offensive lineman early, but in their last 4 losses they averaged just under 8 points, and that's not counting the 1 touchdown they scored against the Raiders. The team needs playmakers. The team needs to score more points. Rivers had ample time to make plays, specfically versus the top 2 teams in the AFC, and no receiver could shake loose. It's time to get Rivers some help. Parker would be a no brainer and would instantly upgrade the offense.