Fantasy Football Profile: DeVante Parker
It seems as if I’ve been defending DeVante Parker all offseason. The oddest part of it all is that I’m not even someone who was expecting a massive breakout like some were last year. You have to understand the dispersion of targets before projecting something like that, but as long as Jarvis Landry was on the team and healthy, that wasn’t ever going to happen.
In case you’ve been in a coma over the last few months, the Browns traded for Landry, opening the window for just over 150 targets per season. Am I going to automatically project that for Parker? Absolutely not, but if you don’t think it’s possible, you’re missing out on the point. Let’s talk about Parker’s potential in 2018 and why you should be buying.
It has been a while since he was drafted, but Parker was the No. 14 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. When a wide receiver is drafted that high, they’re going to be given every chance to succeed, especially when they’re 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds like Parker is. Some will say that he’s had his opportunity to succeed, but I’d argue that he’s done perfectly fine with the opportunities he’s been given.
DISAPPOINTING EARLY YEARS
Statistically, he had a disappointing rookie campaign where he saw just 50 targets, finishing with 26 receptions for 494 yards and three touchdowns. But if you look closer, he didn’t make it into the starting lineup until Week 12. Over the final six games, he averaged 74.2 yards per game, finishing with less than 63 yards just once. He also scored all three of his touchdowns in those final six games, so he was on the right track as a rookie.
His sophomore season was a bit hit-and-miss, as he posted at least 70 yards in 5-of-15 games, but also finished with 20 yards or less in five other games, leaving many to believe he’s too boom-or-bust for fantasy. Guys, this is what happens when you don’t see consistent targets. He finished the 2016 season with 88 targets, which ranked 53rd in the NFL. He saw more than four targets just eight times all season, so again, the inconsistency can be explained.
Onto 2017 when the Dolphins were forced to deal with yet another injury to starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, making them lean on Jay Cutler for the entire season. Parker himself got off to a hot start, totaling 18 receptions for 230 yards and a touchdown over the first three games (was the WR15 at that point) before suffering the dreaded high-ankle sprain that caused him to miss nearly four full games. He never returned to his early-season form, but he did total at least 63 yards in 5-of-9 games. His targets were more consistent in 2017, though, as he finished with at least six targets in 10-of-13 games.
WHY 2018 LOOKS PROMISING
We’re now onto 2018 where the coaching staff has been raging about Parker and his dedication to the game this offseason, saying he’s usually the first one in and the last one out of the team’s building, and that he’s been focusing on his health a lot more. That’s heresy, yes, but it’s noteworthy because this is the same coaching staff that trashed him to the press just a couple years ago. He’s also getting Tannehill back, which would make anyone wonder if that’s a good thing. Here’s his splits over his career with and without Tannehill. I’ve only included games with at least three targets to ensure there’s no shortened games/untargeted games affecting the overall totals.
|Targets/gm||Rec/gm||Yds/gm||TDs/gm||STD Pts||PPR Pts|
Even though he’s seen slightly lower target totals, his per target production is much better with Tannehill. This is where the targets come into play, because if he were to average the same exact amount of production (which most consider a disappointment) on a per target basis from Tannehill in 2018, here’s what you’re looking at when it comes to projected production: 100 targets – 180 PPR points, which would have ranked as the No. 26 wide receiver in 2017. Before moving to higher target totals, let me explain why Parker’s ceiling is higher than you think.
THE CEILING IS HIGHER THAN YOU THINK
How many teams do you think had three wide receivers with at least 90 targets last year? I’ll save you the research, because the answer is one. That team was the Dolphins and they did that while Landry saw a whopping 161 targets. Their top three wide receivers accounted for 362 targets, while the next closest team was the Steelers trio of wide receivers who accounted for 326 targets. Quite the gap, eh? Keep in mind that those were the numbers with Parker out of the lineup for essentially four games as well. It just goes to show how wide receiver-friendly Adam Gase’s offense is. There were just three teams who had more than 362 wide receiver targets on their whole team, not just the top three wide receivers. Going back to 2016, the three Dolphins wide receivers accounted for 300 targets, which was among the highest in the NFL, so it wasn’t a fluke.
You’ll have a lot of naysayers out there telling you that Albert Wilson and Danny Amendola were signed this offseason and that they’re the ones to target in fantasy. Yes, Wilson, who has never had a season with more than 554 yards or three touchdowns and Amendola, who is 32 years old and has never totaled more than 689 yards or four touchdowns are going to fill the Landry role (where’s the sarcasm font). Here’s a hint for you: those two players aren’t going to be on the field together unless the Dolphins run a 4WR set, something they did on just 33 total snaps last year. If you’re riding with one of those guys in fantasy, you need to pick one of them, and you’re lying to yourself if you think they’ll come close to Landry’s 161 targets from last season.
Parker and Kenny Stills are the two who will be on the field in 2WR sets, but the third wide receiver will be out there 73 percent of the time according to last year’s personnel grouping that the Dolphins ran. So, when you look at how many wide receiver targets they have to go around, combined with the fact that Parker is the only wide receiver on this team who can potentially see 150 targets, you have yourself a top-10 ceiling. In fact, if you project Parker for a modest 120 targets, he’s got a 95 percent chance to finish as a top-36 (WR3) in fantasy. Why? There have been 109 wide receivers who’ve seen at least 120 targets over the last five years and 104 of them have finished top-36, with 86 of them finishing in the top-24. If we were to go back to Parker’s past efficiency with Tannehill, his fantasy potential with 120 targets would be 216 PPR points, which would have ranked as the No. 18 wide receiver last year. The point here is that he doesn’t even need to be as efficient as he’s been to produce good fantasy numbers, but I think he can be even better.
With Landry gone, we now that we know Parker is in line for more consistent targets in 2018, but what has that meant to this point? Here’s chart with what Parker has done in games where he’s seen at least four targets (remember that targets have been sporadic over his first three seasons).
|Targets/gm||Rec/gm||Yds/gm||TDs/gm||STD Pts||PPR Pts|
|4 or more||7.5||4.5||61.1||0.28||7.8||12.3|
|3 or less||2.4||1.4||19.3||0.00||1.9||3.3|
Parker is heading into a contract year and he knows it. The hype has been built around him before, only to be torn down to the point where his early ADP (average draft position) sits way down as the WR40. While you can disagree with me from a talent standpoint on Parker, you can’t disagree that if he stays healthy, he’s being drafted below his floor, which is something that’s unheard of in fantasy football. You also won’t find a wide receiver this far down the draft board who comes with a top-10 ceiling (barring an injury in front of lower-ranked players), again, something that’s unheard of in the fantasy community. Remember that I’ve never been a Parker fanboy, but I’m buying him wherever I can this year because the cost is essentially nothing. If you still want to bet heavily against Parker, my advice would be to bet on Kenny Stills, who is also under-priced. My 2018 projection: 118 targets, 70 receptions, 930 yards, 6 touchdowns