Will Parks: More Than A Safety

Doc Bear examines just what the Broncos might have on their hands in rookie sixth-round safety Will Parks.

I was watching some Will Parks game film today. The first thing that stood out was that he was all over the field. He’s ferocious. He played clean, but he de-cleated several players. Denver Broncos fans are going to love him.

He isn’t as fast on foot as you’d prefer (his 40-yard dash was a 4.63), but his jump on the play and the angles he takes make him play much faster. Foot speed is important, but playing speed is essential. In several games, he would just barely get a hand on the ball, yet keep it away from the receiver.

What really impressed me was seeing that he obviously had done extensive film work to prepare. The ball was barely snapped when Parks would be halfway down through the box, dropping the ball carrier for a 5-yard loss, or snapping into coverage. He had 20 tackles for a loss over his last two years at Arizona.

Parks usually belongs in the box, but he has also played some outside man coverage. His press coverage is vicious, but he keeps it within the 5-yard limit. He didn’t tend to lose control or awareness. He could become a solid fit at T.J. Ward's safety-backer role.

Where a player falls in the draft has become less and less important to me. According to one study from 2015, only 40 percent of first round players over the last three seasons were making substantial impacts for their respective teams.

The criteria used are obviously going to be contentious, but in my mind, the conclusion isn’t. Predicting performance is a dangerous business at best. My cap’s off to the teams that are the best at it. To the rest, I have three words—Chris Harris, Jr. Everyone missed him. It’s a good lesson. 

Denver won the last Super Bowl because they combined excellent drafting in all rounds with elite use of free agents. Derek Wolfe, Von Miller, Peyton ManningEmmanuel Sanders, Malik Jackson, DeMarcus Ware, Matt Paradis, Ronnie Hillman and Demaryius Thomas are all on that list.

Increasingly, they’ve drafted their now-starters or drawn them, like Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis, off the waiver wire. C.J. Anderson was a college free agent. So was Shaquil Barrett, who’s pushing to take over more reps as a pass rusher. Denver attracts and develops them.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1674230-denver-s-young-safety-duo... Instead of asking if a player should or shouldn’t be in 'X' round, I’m more interested in the underlying question.  Do I want this guy on my football team? If so, he has to have some quality that I want. It might be leadership, coverage, tackling or his stack-and-shed ability, creating gap discipline, but it will be there.

It’s always going to involve two things—basic skills and pure determination. If you have a guy good enough to get to the NFL and he’s still hungry, I want him on my team. If he’s impressed with that achievement by training camp, I’ll pass. If he is fast off the snap, I like him even better. If he’s a safety, I want him to be able to both cover and tackle.

Parks can. Justin Simmons may be even more talented, but it’s close. I’d say that Justin is more athletic, while Will is more physical. Both players have both qualities, though. It’s obviously very early, but from the college game film, both impressed me. Both should help kick-start the special teams in their first seasons.

Simmons is said to have the edge on replacing David Bruton in the dime package that worked so well last season. Perhaps so. The pads haven’t come on yet, so it’s still anyone’s job.

Justin’s advantage isn’t what round he was chosen in—it’s what he’s able to do. He had a Combine that left a lot of scouts running for their safety film. Although not listed in the ‘Top-5’ of the well-known draftniks, according to the SPARQ metrics (currently used by Three Sigma Athlete) Simmons tested better than over 98 percent of the safeties currently in the NFL.

At 6-foot-2, and 202 pounds, Justin ran a 4.53 40 with a 1.58 10-yard split. He had a 40-inch vertical jump, posted a 10.5-foot broad jump and a 6.58 three-cone time (I’ve never seen that from a safety). He had a 3.85-second short shuttle and 16 bench press reps. It was exceptional.

Parks didn’t get a Combine invite, but his Pro Day numbers were good. His 40 was 4.63, with a 1.64 10 yard split. His vertical was only 31.5. He had five more reps than Simmons on the bench press. Unlike Justin, it didn’t clearly reflect the player.

Many observers see them taking over for Darian Stewart and T.J. Ward when the veterans slow down. That gives two excellent players a chance to learn their positions and be mentored by some of the best, honing the skills each brings in.

http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1670524-how-do-denver-s-new-playe... With Joe Woods guiding them, these two are projected as the Broncos future at safety. With Simmons being honed as the free safety and Parks as the hybrid strong safety that Ward plays, they’re a potentially lethal combination with time to develop together.  

At Arizona, Parks played both safety positions and some nickel defensive back. He even managed some one-on-one coverage as an outside corner. He played some defensive end and some linebacker for the Wildcats. Versatile doesn’t really cover it. He really has done it all.

Instincts can’t be taught, but they can be maximized. To help accomplish that, NFL-level film far outstrips college-level film study. Today’s tech lets one player select another and study every one of his snaps for the past three years, if desired. Parks impressed me with his preparation. He’s going to love this.

Small quirks that might give away a play become shining beacons, shouting plays and tendencies. Parks showed me in several games that he’d prepared thoroughly, spotting formations and the reads within them, understanding what a team prefers on 'X' down with 'Y' distance, acting on it at the snap. It was beautiful to watch.

Parks may have been picked with pick No. 219 of the sixth round. But with the way he plays, I’m glad that he’s a Bronco. For a team that sets their attitude at ‘Grindin’, he’s going to fit right in.

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Doc Bear is a Featured Columnist for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @DocBearOMD.

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