That school of predicting thought won’t cool down with news that Parker was among the Vikings’ “top 30” predraft visits, according to NFL.com (so was Trae Waynes, by the way, who also was selected by the Vikings in 13 of the 45 mock drafts munched).
But Parker has long been a favorite for the Vikings by the draftnik crowd because of his connection with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (Amari Cooper was also a high school teammate of Bridgewater), and Parker continued to have success at Louisville last season without Bridgewater.
Although Parker missed the first seven games of the 2014 season after surgery to repair a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot, he still finished the year with 43 catches for 855 yards, five touchdowns and an impressive 19.8 yards per catch. That included a stretch where he closed the season with 100 yards or more in five of six games, including a 214-yard performance against a Florida State team that had one of the better defenses in college football and several highly regarded draft prospects.
The 6-foot-3, 209 pound receiver that ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine capped a strong career at Louisville, where he caught 156 passes for 2,775 yards and 33 touchdowns with a 67 percent catch rate.
His 17.79 yards-per-catch average during his career ranks sixth-best in the NCAA and his 33 touchdown catches were third among active players.
Here is the in-depth scouting report on Parker from Scout.com draft analyst Dave-Te’ Thomas:
Parker headed into the 2014 postseason as one of the elite draft prospects at his position. He has shown teams that he is a shifty runner with the foot quickness, head/shoulder fakes and juke ability to consistently get free vs. the physical press. He has good acceleration heading up field and the agility to sell the route and elude in the open field, along with showing crisp cutting agility out of his breaks.
The Cardinal has a sudden first step that is unusual for a big receiver, demonstrating the breakaway burst needed to ride up his opponent. The postseason should solidify his first-round status, as most teams are on the prowl for a big receiver with speed to be their go-to target. Not much separates Parker from Amari Cooper, as far as analysts are concerned. Much like the Tide pass catcher, Parker uses his size well to aggressively go after the ball and he has great ability to stretch the field.
While Parker came back strong from the left foot (metatarsal) injury that kept him out of the first seven games of the 2014 season, some teams might be a bit concerned about his bumps and bruises the last two years. In 2013, he dealt with right shoulder problems and then left in the first quarter of the Russell Athletic Bowl vs. Miami with an ankle sprain.
Even with slight injury concerns, Parker has great size and initial explosion for this position, showing the flexibility to get in and out of his cuts instantly in attempts to separate. He has very good acceleration off the line and the speed to challenge the deep secondary. He also shows good body control to adjust to the off-target throws. His speed and arm extension are his best qualities, but his leg strength is evident by the way he generates yards after the catch. He has the change-of-direction agility to go along with his speed to be a breakaway threat with the ball in his hands.
Parker is blessed with outstanding ability to get vertical and combat for jump balls in a crowd, but for some strange reason (perhaps due to recovering from his foot injury in 2014), of the 71 passes targeted to him this year, opponents managed to deflect 16 of those throws away from the receiver. He does a fine job of adjusting his body for the high throws and has the strength and burst to defeat the initial tackle.
Parker is what scouts term as “football smart,” as he does not need things thoroughly explained to him as his score would indicate. He shows very good field awareness to settle in the zone’s soft spot and can adjust to situations in attempts to make the play. He can learn and transfer plays from the chalkboard to the playing field with no problems. He knows the offensive scheme well and has been used in multiple positions; flanker, slot and split end, with no drop-off in his performance.
Parker plays with good awareness to adjust on the move and does a very nice job of finding spots underneath to uncover. He can easily beat the jam and can do a very good job of gobbling up the cushion and pushing the cornerback out of the back-pedal too early. He might not have that sudden explosion to keep NFL corners from mirroring him on deep routes, but he has had great success creating space for himself with his hand punch.
You can see his ability to rock defensive backs up on their heels and get free in an instant coming off the line of scrimmage. He has a very good understanding of what he needs to do to get off the press and into his patterns. He can threaten the deep secondary vs. off coverage and has no problems getting a clean release vs. the jam. He has the size to get back on the stem and is a fluid strider rather than one who takes long steps.
Parker is hard to knock off his patterns and shows smooth body adjustments to catch the ball in stride. The thing you see on film is his explosive burst when fading into the open area, doing a nice job of tracking the ball in flight. He has good acceleration heading up field and the agility to sell the route and elude in the open field. He shows very crisp cutting agility out of his breaks.
The “X” receiver can decelerate and throttle down to come back and lend support when the quarterback is pressured. His hip shake and head fakes are quite effective at keeping the defender off balance. He can sink his hips in and out of his breaks to separate and does a fine job of finding the zone’s soft spots to settle. He still needs to improve his slide in the open zone, as he will sometimes get too narrow when accelerating out of transition cuts. He shows awareness to uncover and makes good adjustments to get to the off-target throws.
Parker has the spring in his legs to get good elevation trying to high-point the ball. He uses his large mitts and reach to go over the top of the defender to win most jump ball battles. He looks effortless utilizing his lift and rise to go up for the pass. He shows good ball adjustment skills and balance to make the tough grabs and keep his feet in bounds when working along the sidelines.
Parker is better when creating space for the running game as a cut blocker, where he shows good concept for taking proper angles. He is too patient of a blocker though and you’d like to see him stalk second-level defenders rather that sit back and wait for them to come to him.
SCOUT.COM DRAFT RANKINGS
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