Cleveland Browns: Making the Case for DeVante Parker


As the NFL Draft nears, speculation over the final landing spot of the top prospects is at an all-time high. For the Cleveland Browns, holding the 12th and 19th picks in the first round, there’s even more to discuss. Will the team wind up with two first-rounders, one plus some additional later round picks or package both to move up and nab a top five pick?

Mock drafts for the Browns are all over the place even if you select the straightforward option of using the picks as they stand.

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There are plenty of roster positions that could use an upgrade on both sides of the ball. But if we’re truly building for the future, upgrading one of the skill positions with an elite prospect is the best route.

Twelve is an awkward position to hold in the draft. Just outside the top ten, it’s possible a highly rated prospect slides into your hands. At quarterback, the Browns’ greatest position of need, the only two first-round worthy prospects will be long gone by the time we get to twelve. The next highest position of need is wide receiver.

The Browns signed veteran receivers Brian Hartline and Dwayne Bowe and still have up-and-coming Andrew Hawkins, and though all of these players have star potential, none is a plug and play #1 receiver. Hawkins emerged during the suspension of Josh Gordon and is the most likely to develop into that role.

But there’s nothing wrong with picking up some insurance for the position.

Nov 29, 2014; Louisville, KY, USA; Louisville Cardinals wide receiver DeVante Parker (9) runs the ball against the Kentucky Wildcats during the second half at Papa John

According to NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah, this year’s wide receiver class will be the safest picks in the draft. Wide receiver has historically been one of the most difficult positions to evaluate and a riskier position to invest a high pick in. In a comprehensive analysis back in 2012, Samuel Gold of Bleacher Report evaluated wide receiver performance since 2002.

The data showed that wide receiver success varied wildly by year and also is more dependent on having high performing teammates than other positions.

But since 2012, wide receiver has actually been one of the safest and consistent positions to hit on in the first round. For 2015, NFL analyst Charles Davis even has five receivers going in the first round. In Davis’ draft, the Browns pick up Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper. But I, and many other draft designers, believe Cooper won’t be available by the time the Browns are on the clock.

Also gone will be West Virginia’s Kevin White. That leaves Louisville prospect DeVante Parker as the next available top player at that position.

There’s a lot to like about Parker. His 2014 season was marred by a broken foot which caused him to miss the first seven games of the year. Despite that, and despite the fact that his 2013 quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, had moved on to the NFL, Parker managed to be just as productive as he was when Bridgewater was throwing to him. In just six games Parker recorded 43 catches for 855 yards and five touchdowns.

Granted it’s not apples to oranges, but that’s more TDs that Hartline, Bowe and Hawkins combined last season.

“Parker plays both stronger and faster than he looks, repeatedly winning battles for receptions. And he is a threat to take one the distance whenever he makes a grab in space.”-Chris Burke

At 6’3″ tall, Parker has the size that teams are looking for. He posted a 4.45 second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine and a vertical jump of 36.5 inches. This resume landed him at number 9 on Sports Illustrated’s list of the top 64 prospects.

SI Analyst Chris Burke noted, “Parker plays both stronger and faster than he looks, repeatedly winning battles for receptions. And he is a threat to take one the distance whenever he makes a grab in space.”

This type of player could really flourish with the tough situation the Browns have at quarterback. If Parker can get clean releases off the line of scrimmage, he has the ability to snag throws that might escape other receivers. With the best corner in the AFC North to practice against in Joe Haden, Parker should be able to refine his technique to avoid being jammed.

Of course, adding Parker to the roster relies on the absence of draft day surprises – the most likely of which would be a package trade of the Browns’ two first round picks to move up and select whichever quarterback doesn’t go first overall. Trades like this are exciting but they are hardly safe.

The Browns would be wise to stick where they are and take a near-sure thing in DeVante Parker.

Next: Browns Target Malcolm Brown?

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