When he was originally drafted with the 14th overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins front office and coaching staff thought they landed their number one wide receiver for the foreseeable future in DeVante Parker.
Consistently battling through injuries and failing to be a consistent target for quarterback Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense, Parker hasn’t lived up to his potential and emerged as one of the top-flight receivers in the NFL like many draft analysts predicted he would with his unique size, speed and athletic prowess.
In regards to fantasy football, the only way Parker can be considered a top wide receiver is if you combine the stats of his first two years in the league. Heading into his third season, Parker has combined for 82 catches for 1,238 yards and seven touchdowns; which is basically the equivalent of Brandin Cooks’ production last year for the Saints.
As a rookie Parker finished as the 68th-ranked receiver before jumping up to 51st in 2016. Early reports predict Parker’s performance to once again improve in 2017, but whether or not Parker can elevate his play to become a solid fantasy football option remains the great unknown.
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Here are a few reasons to buy into the hype surrounding Parker.
This offseason is the first time Parker seems to be 100 percent since entering the NFL. Parker has suffered from back and hamstring issues in the past, but his biggest hurdle has been the health of his foot that has required multiple surgeries.
While it’s still fairly early in the offseason, there have been no reports regarding any additional foot injuries or setbacks that will limit Parker as training camp approaches.
A full, healthy offseason, combined with the stories surfacing of a re-committed and mentally focused Parker, point towards the third-year physical specimen making a jump and living up to his pre-NFL hype.
2. Third year NFL receiver
For every Odell Beckham Jr. that comes into the league and makes an immediate impact – finishing as the fifth-ranked receiver his rookie year – there is an abundance of others who take a few years to live up to their potential and make a name for themselves in fantasy football.
As most people know, just because players dominate in college football doesn’t mean their success will translate in the NFL. The skill of defenders, defensive coaching schemes and all around pressure to perform are all heightened once you make it to the league and it takes time for players to learn how to adjust to all of these things, plus more.
The third season is usually a make or break year for early-round selection receivers in the NFL as they tend to take a step forward and become playmakers or something fails to click and they maintain their current level of play with flashes shown now and again.
3. Familiarity with Tannehill and Adam Gase
Now that Tannehill has had time to develop chemistry with Parker, which hopefully continues with a healthy offseason for both players, there’s a good chance Parker’s performance is elevated to the next level.
The familiarity with Tannehill, mixed with being the “X” receiver in head coach Adam Gase’s offense should bold well for Parker.
During Gase’s time in Denver as the offensive coordinator, the primary receiver – Demaryius Thomas – finished as the highest scoring fantasy receiver in 2013 after posting 92 receptions for 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns while finishing as the fourth-high fantasy scoring receiver in 2014, posting 111 receptions for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns.
While these stats may be skewed due to Thomas playing with one of the best quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning, the primary receiver during his one-year stint as the offensive coordinator with the Chicago Bears also performed at a very high level despite not playing a full season, and that was with Jay Cutler at quarterback.
In 2015 with Chicago, Alshon Jeffery finished with 54 catches for 807 yards and four touchdowns in just nine games. Extrapolate those stats over a full 16-game season and Jeffery was on pace for a 96-1,435-7 stat line.
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Here are a couple reasons why you shouldn’t trust Parker in your starting lineup.
1. Jarvis Landry dominates targets
When it comes to fantasy football there are few things that match the importance of targets and overall usage of the player you’re drafting. The issue with selecting Parker is the fact that Jarvis Landry is a target monster and will eat into a lot of the opportunities in Miami’s passing game.
Since entering the league, Landry has finished in the top-40 in the NFL in targets including the sixth-most in 2015 and 17th-most last year.
With Landry working the slot and being Tannehill’s most relied upon receiver, he’s once again likely to finish as the most-targeted Dolphins receiver and lead the unit in fantasy points.
2. Jay Ajayi’s success leads to increased usage
After finishing 2016 as the 11th-highest scoring running back, Jay Ajayi is once again expected to be one of the lead backs in fantasy football in 2017.
If Ajayi can become more consistent – he scored 56.4 percent of his season total of fantasy points in four games – he’s in line for an increase in carries this year, which inevitably leads to less opportunities for the remainder of the team’s skill players.
During the stretch run of 2016 where fantasy teams are either competing for or participating in playoff matchups, Parker was nearly invisible in regards to fantasy football and couldn’t be trusted in starting lineups.
Between weeks 12-17 of last year, Parker reached double-digit fantasy points just one time and that was in large part due to some poor tackling on a 65-yard touchdown week 16 against Buffalo.
In order to be considered for starting lineups with all of the talent this year at wide receiver, Parker will need to show more consistency and ability to maximize his scoring potential when given the opportunity.
For 2017 I predict a stat line of 75 receptions for 975 yards and seven touchdowns for Parker, as he’s currently my 36th-ranked fantasy receiver.