By Dan Durkin–
(CBS) Previously, wide receiver was thought of as a position with one of the steepest learning curves for rookies. From learning the NFL route tree to being on the same page with the quarterback as routes are adjusted to fundamentals and footwork, there are several technical aspects to master in the transition. However, recent history has shown that rookie receivers can have an immediate impact.
Today we take a look at a receiver who is somewhat flying under the radar: Louisville’s DeVante Parker.
WR DeVante Parker (6-foot-3, 209 pounds, 22, Louisville)
40-yard dash: 4.49
Vertical: 36 1/2”
Arm: 33 1/4”
Bio: Parker stayed in his home state, arriving at Louisville as a two-time all-state performer and one of the nation’s top wide receiver prospects. He chose Louisville over Kentucky, Indiana and Central Florida.
Parker was a four-year performer for the Cardinals who averaged nearly 18 yards per catch over his collegiate career. As a true freshman in 2011, he played in 11 games and led the team with six touchdown receptions. In 2012, he became current Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s big-play guy, averaging 18.6 yards per reception and scoring 10 touchdowns. In his junior season, Parker led the team with 885 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hampered by a broken bone in his foot to start his senior season, he still averaged 20 yards per catch and hauled in five touchdowns.
In total, Parker appeared in 43 games, and he was named first-team All-AAC in 2013.
Pro outlook: Parker’s a fluid athlete with deceiving speed. Given his size, he’s more of a long strider who takes a few steps to get to top speed, but he showed the ability to consistently gain separation over the top on vertical and post routes. He has a knack for tracking the ball in the air to accelerate through the catch, showing a different gear on deep routes.
Parker has an 80-inch wingspan, which gives him a wide catching radius. This not only benefits him in 50/50 situations to high point and snatch the ball from defenders, but it also gives his quarterbacks a margin for error with their throws. He’s clean with his releases off the line of scrimmage when pressed. He can beat corners with fluid footwork or physically with active hands and a strong one-arm stab.
Parker has the advantage of playing in a pro-style offense in college. He’s a polished route runner who’s clean in and out of his breaks, showing proper balance and footwork to set defenders up with his feet to get them leaning before finishing his route. He uses his body wisely to shield defenders from the ball and give his quarterback a clean window to throw into.
Parker did have a few drops in college, and he showed inconsistent effort on some contested throws. He will need to use his physicality as a run blocker down the field, as his tape shows him as more of a wall-off blocker than a player who will strike and drive an opponent.
Draft projection: Parker is the third-best receiver prospect in this class, trailing Amari Cooper and Kevin White. He has the potential to be a centerpiece of an offense’s passing attack and should be a top-15 selection.
Dan Durkin covers the Bears for CBSChicago.com and is a frequent contributor to 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @djdurkin.