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NFL Player Profile

Can DeVante Parker replicate his amazing 2019?

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: May 26, 2020, 1:40 pm ET

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2020 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

The 2019 season brought about major breakouts from former Adam Gase-induced "busts" Ryan Tannehill and DeVante Parker. The Dolphins were lucky enough to at least experience Parker's ascension, and they accordingly locked him down with a four-year, $40 million contract.

Parker is 27 years old and will be forced to adjust to life with Tua Tagovailoa under center sooner rather than later. The talent has always been there for the former No. 14 overall pick of the 2015 draft, but was 2019 an outlier or a sign of things to come?

What follows is a breakdown on what makes Parker great as well as an outlook on the 2020 Dolphins' passing game.

Parker was unstoppable for parts of 2019

There were two versions of Parker last season:

  • With Preston Williams (8 games): 52 targets, 28 receptions, 400 yards, 4 TD, PPR WR36
  • Without Williams (8 games): 76 targets, 44 receptions, 802 yards, 5 TD, PPR WR2

However, it was the manner in which Parker went about topping every WR other than Michael Thomas that was so impressive. Parker was consistently the focal point of opposing defenses and matched up with some of the game's best corners: he won shadow matchups against each of Tre'Davious White (7-135-0), William Jackson (5-111-1) and Stephon Gilmore (8-137-0)

Parker is a 6-foot-3 and 209-pound monster capable of running the 40 in 4.45 seconds. His contested catch skills are truly elite, and he's flashed true alpha-No. 1 WR upside throughout his five-year career.

And yet, there's a possibility that Parker could struggle to replicate this production if Tua doesn't enable him in a similar manner as FitzMagic. Parker finished as a bottom-six WR in average separation (Next-Gen Stats) and accordingly posted a meh 56.3% catch rate. It's weird to think that a player as talented as Parker could be so QB-dependent, but that's been the case throughout his career with his cast of brutal signal callers:

Of course, there's also a chance that Tua is by far the best QB Parker has ever played with. The good news for Parker is that he won't have to fight for targets either way.

The Dolphins declined to add to their WR room this offseason

Miami declined to draft a WR or sign a new threat in free agency. The following five players are the top candidates to see the most snaps:

  • Parker appears to be locked in as the No. 1 WR following last season's 72-1,202-9 explosion.
  • Preston Williams had more targets (60 vs. 52), receptions (32 vs. 28) and yards (428 vs. 400) than Parker in his eight games last season. The undrafted free agent posted a similarly-dismal 53% catch rate and struggled with drops, but Williams certainly did look like the offense's best WR for stretches of 2019 (particularly during the preseason). The second half of last season, natural talent, and invested capital all indicate that Parker will work ahead of Williams in 2020, although the disparity likely won't be as big as their current average draft positions indicate.
  • Albert Wilson was stupid efficient in 2018 on his way to averaging 11.2 yards per target and 3.03 yards per route run. Last season didn't go as well, but in Wilson's defense he suffered rib, hip and calf injuries as well as a concussion. The shifty slot WR was playing a near every-down role by the end of the season and could be a wild card to emerge as this offense's No. 2 pass-game option if healthy.
  • Allen Hurns averaged just 3.4 targets per game last season, serving as more of a threat to snaps than target share. The Dolphins are his third team since 2017; it'd be shocking if he sees anything resembling a top-three role in this offense.
  • Jakeem Grant is the Dolphins' long-time WR/returner capable of creating big plays in the blink of an eye. 2019 was the worst season of his career in terms of both yards per reception (8.6) and yards per target (5). Failure to bounce back early in 2020 could lead to his already pint-sized role becoming obsolete.

The likes of Ricardo Louis, Mack Hollins, Gary Jennings, Matt Cole and Kirk Merritt could also feasibly fight for snaps.

The only notable changes to the Dolphins' 2020 offense comes at RB and across the offensive line. Jordan Howard and Matt Breida are expected to form a two-back committee of sorts, while first-round OT Austin Jackson and second-round G Robert Hunt will hopefully help overhaul what was probably the league's single-worst offensive line from 2019. They also added adding Patriots C/G Ted Karras and bust G/T Ereck Flowers in free agency.

I wouldn't bet on the Dolphins becoming anything resembling a top-tier offense in 2020. Still, the overall continuity at WR and TE provides some opportunity in fantasy land.

There are talents worth betting on in Miami

Parker (PPR WR22) is far more expensive than Williams (WR52) and Wilson (WR116). We've seen four years of evidence that Parker isn't capable of consistently producing, but 2019 yielded new-found highs thanks to Fitzpatrick's willingness to zero in on his No. 1 WR.

It's ultimately difficult to see any other scenario than Parker leading this team in targets next season with good health. That's a scary thought considering just how special of a talent the man truly is.

I've come around on Parker and have him as my PPR WR20. He truly is worth targeting at his current valuation. Early returns in fantasy drafts have shown that the WR talent pool is much deeper than the RB position after the first handful of rounds, meaning shooting for a more-volatile option like Parker over someone like T.Y. Hilton or Tyler Lockett might be a good idea.

Additionally, we have a lot of evidence that new-OC Chan Gailey is all about enabling a high-end fantasy WR1. Parker had 128 targets in 2019. Gailey's last six No. 1 WRs in Dwayne Bowe (157), Steve Johnson (141, 134, 148) and Brandon Marshall (173, 128) each managed to meet or clear that mark with ease.

The better question is what to make of the rest of the group. Gesicki spent 77% of his snaps in the slot or out wide last season. It doesn't seem likely that any of Durham Smythe, Chandler Cox or Michael Roberts take away too many snaps from the Dolphins talented "TE", and Gailey did enable No. 2 pass-game options that played the position in Dallas, Kansas City and Buffalo alike.

Gesicki's current ADP as the TE15 is worth exploiting; just be careful if he creeps any further toward the TE1 borderline. Williams and Wilson are each solid late-round darts that could return serious value in this undefined offense.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.