(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2018.)
WR DeVante Parker
Height, weight: 6-3, 216
Experience: Fourth NFL season, all with Dolphins
Acquired: First-round pick in 2015
Contract: In fourth year of rookie contract, due to earn $3.4 million. Dolphins have picked up his fifth-year option.
Pro Football Focus rank: 53rd out of 116
Stats: Started 12 of 13 games played; had 57 receptions for 670 yards (11.8 average) and one TD
Notable moments: Caught eight passes for 76 yards and only TD of the season at the Jets. … Caught six passes for 89 yards at Bills.
Straight talk: “It was not where I wanted to be. It’s as simple as that.”
That was Parker’s summation of his first three NFL seasons, blunt talk that matches what fans are thinking.
Had Parker been a third-round pick, his career totals of 139 catches, 1,909 yards and eight touchdowns would be viewed in an entirely different light. (Seattle’s Tyler Lockett, a third-rounder, has 1,816 yards and nine TDs.) Parker’s problems are that he carries the burden of being a 14th overall pick who has started only half of his team’s games, has only three 100-yard performances, has never scored more than one touchdown in a game and has never topped 750 yards in a season.
As the Dolphins once again are hoping this year will be the year for Parker, it’s worth pointing out that as they attempted to upgrade their receiving corps in 2015, having just parted with Mike Wallace, they actually did about as well as they could in the draft.
Six receivers were taken in the first round that year. Amari Cooper clearly was the best of them — he has been to two Pro Bowls, has 2,903 yards and 18 TDs — but he was snatched by the Raiders with the fourth overall pick.
Parker has been the best of the rest. Consider:
Kevin White, Bears (No. 7 overall): Limited to five career games because of injuries. Chicago declined to pick up his fifth-year option.
Parker (No. 14): 139 receptions, 1,909 yards, eight TDs.
Nelson Agholor, Eagles (No. 20): Close to Parker with 121 catches, 1,416 yards, 11 TDs.
Breshad Perriman, Ravens (No. 26): 43 catches, 576 yards, three TDs.
Phillip Dorsett, Colts/currently with Patriots (No. 29): 63 catches, 947 yards, three TDs.
Will this year be the “gigantic” year the Dolphins expected of Parker last year? Nobody is buying that until they see it. For now, it’s hard to tell if there are signs of change. Fellow receiver Jakeem Grant said Parker’s preparation this offseason is “way different” than last year.
“I think he definitely wants to go out there and prove to people he’s better than what people think he is. He’s not just a guy that continually gets hurt or whatever. … He’s going to be great. Without doubt, he’s going to be one of the top receivers in this league.”
For the most part, though, the Dolphins have attempted to tone down such rhetoric, with receivers coach Ben Johnson saying rather than making “these giant claims,” he’s taking the “one day at a time” approach.
When Parker was asked if he changed anything to cut back on nagging injuries, he curiously replied, “Right now I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing that’s been working.”
Has it been working? You decide. As for the Dolphins in 2018 …
“I don’t think there is any question what anybody feels he can do,” coach Adam Gase said. “I don’t even think it’s a potential thing. I think it’s a health thing.”
Prospects for 2018
The Dolphins protected themselves by picking up the fifth-year option on Parker’s contract. It’s worth $9.5 million but if Parker flops, Miami has the option of cutting him.
“To me, it’s been a different guy this offseason,” Johnson said. “He understands the urgency and how important this year is.”
It’s possible new life will be breathed into Parker’s career with the changing dynamics of the receiving corps. QB Ryan Tannehill is back. Jarvis Landry is not. In short, it’s highly unlikely any receiver on this team will have triple-digit catches like Landry did.
Instead, look for the Dolphins to spread the ball around among Parker, Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Albert Wilson and rookie TE Mike Gesicki. Then, it’ll become a matter of how much Parker makes himself available to make the big plays the Dolphins have long expected of him.
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