Now is the time of year when the Minnesota Vikings could potentially draft anyone. Everyone is still available, theoretically, and mock drafts are running wild. Looking through a few mocks, it appears the Vikings are a wild card, with multiple needs. But an early consensus at pick 11 is Louisville wideout DeVante Parker. Is he the right pick for the Vikings?
There has been mock draft speculation that the Vikings will take offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes. But as one of the top linemen in the draft, Scherff might not last until the Vikings’ pick; drafting Gordon would mean running back Adrian Peterson likely won’t be back; and I’m not convinced the Vikings are going defense with their first pick two years in a row.
But ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Daniel Jeremiah from NFL.com and the Vikings Journal’s Bo Mitchell have all landed on Parker to Minnesota in their respective initial mock drafts. In addition, many of the mock drafts that I saw in which Parker isn’t the pick, he is generally available at 11 and goes to either the Cleveland Browns at No. 12 or the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 18. It’s a good bet Parker doesn’t make it past the receiver-starved Chiefs.
Should the Vikings then grab Parker, the former Cardinal teammate of Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater? (Full disclosure: last week I wrote that the Vikings should take an offensive lineman with their first round pick, and that is still my contention. But a draft can change with the surprise selection of one player, so if Parker is the pick, let’s see how he fits in Purple.)
The Vikings don’t necessarily have a need at wide receiver—that is, if aging wideout Greg Jennings doesn’t fall off completely in his skills, Cordarrelle Patterson figures out the game to go along with his natural abilities, Charles Johnson is the real deal and continues to get even better than he showed this past season and Duron Carter signs with Minnesota. That’s a lot of ifs. So let’s just say the Vikings have a need a wide receiver.
What does Parker bring that these other receivers don’t have?
Parker is 6-foot-3, 208 pounds, and is from Louisville, Kent., where he played college ball. He would be the tallest wideout on the Vikings (except if Carter joined the team, as he is 6-foot-5, 209 pounds), but both Johnson (215 pounds) and Patterson (220 pounds) are heavier.
Parker has been clocked with 4.34 speed in the 40-yard dash, which has a nice ring to it. It will be interesting to see how he does at the NFL Combine. Needless to say, he could probably take Jennings in a foot race.
"I think I can hit 4.2," Parker told ESPN.com of his 40-time. "I just want to keep working on my legs so I can get faster."
Parker has also been measured with a 36.5-inch vertical leap and is said to be strong as well, which make him sound like he has all the tools. When he played with Bridgewater his junior year, Parker had 55 receptions for 885 receiving yards and matched a school record with 12 touchdown catches.
Parker stayed in school for his senior season, but suffered a broken foot that cost him seven games. He made up for lost time in the final six games, however, making 43 catches for 855 yards and five touchdowns, including catching three touchdown passes in the regular season finale against Kentucky.
Some of his catches are definite highlight reel action, and he has certainly caught the attention of people grading him for the next level, including Kiper:
“Teddy Bridgewater showed he can be the long-term answer at quarterback if his development continues, and while there are also questions along the offensive line, Parker is a tantalizing talent at this point, as I think some teams will have him graded as the best receiver in this draft class once they've wrapped up evaluations. This is A.J. Green lite, and he’s not that lite. Parker doesn't just have the leaping ability and length to go up and get it and beat even longer defensive backs at the catch point, he can create space with his short-area explosiveness underneath. Teddy needs another weapon. Here he is.”
Parker will be hard to resist at the 11 spot. He is tall enough to be an endzone threat, and although considered a possession receiver, his speed could make him the best field-stretching receiver the Vikings have. He also is said to have good route-running skills, something that Patterson is trying to get better at.
The downside, and it seems strange to say this, is that since he stayed in school four years, so his room to develop isn’t as great as other receivers. But that could also mean he is more of a finished product. The bigger concern for me is how a broken foot will affect his speed long term.
Parker’s quarterback of two seasons (it is worth noting that Parker caught passes from three different quarterbacks while at Louisville), Bridgewater, has not been vocal with comments about his former favorite target. But clearly there was some chemistry between the two players, as those two years were Parker’s most productive.
It will be worth watching Parker’s numbers closely at the combine to see if he lost any time in the 40 since he recorded that 4.34 last summer. Regardless, right now he is rated at or near the top in wide receivers, and he doesn’t appear to be as raw a prospect as Patterson was when he came out.
As a result of familiarity with the Vikings starting quarterback, Parker could be ready to contribute next season if the Vikings grab him. Therefore, if there is no top-name offensive lineman on the board at No. 11, and the Vikings don’t sign Carter, I would be excited about the team taking another Louisville Cardinal.
Head over to Vikings Journal and check out Bo Mitchell's essay on the social media feeding frenzy by Vikings fans following the Packers' loss on Sunday and then join in the conversation on the Vikings Journal forums, where everything Purple is dissected and discussed.
Joe Oberle is a senior writer at VikingsJournal.com, covers the NFL for The Sports Post and is managing editor of Minnesota Golfer magazine. He is an author and longtime Minnesota-based writer.