By: Brandon Liguori
Inconsistent: one word to describe DeVante Parker’s first four years in the NFL. Selected 14th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins had high expectations on Parker, wondering if the former Louisville product can become an elite target for former quarterback Ryan Tannehill and former head coach Adam Gase.
The question was quickly answered, as Parker was a starter in just four games his rookie season, eight games his sophomore season, 12 games his junior season and seven games in 2018. Totaling nine touchdowns in four seasons, the Dolphins became frustrated with Parker’s play and on the edge of dealing the former first-round selection to a team desperately looking for a receiver.
However, new head coach Brian Flores, when hired in February of 2019, had second options, awarding Parker a four-year, $40 million contract extension that runs through 2023, allowing Parker to prove himself to the organization.
“I’ve always had a lot of confidence in DeVante. I remember even when I wasn’t even here and coaching at another organization, him coming out, his skill set-- I thought he had some special qualities for a big player,” Dolphins receivers coach Karl Dorrell said this past December, concluding Miami’s 37-31 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Dorrell’s words spoke the truth, as Parker’s 2019 campaign was the best of his career, starting in 14 of a possible 16 games, catching 72 passes for a career-best and team-best 1,202 receiving yards and hauling in nine touchdowns, which also was Parker’s career-high.
Based on his numbers early in his career, media members and football experts labeled Parker as a “first-round bust,” but after this past season and the tremendous growth and maturity on the football field, Parker was able to silence his doubters. “I was perceived as a bust. The thing has changed now,” Parker said, concluding Miami’s six-point victory this past December vs. Philadelphia.
Although April’s draft is loaded at the wide receiver position, the Dolphins will likely pass on a receiver in the opening rounds, as the team is set in 2020 with Parker, Preston Williams, who is recovering from a season-ending knee injury, Albert Wilson, who after opening the season sluggish, turned the page throughout the second-half portion of the schedule, Jakeem Grant, held without a touchdown catch this past season and Isaiah Ford.
All in all, hats off to Brian Flores and hats off to the Miami Dolphins organization, for putting their full trust in DeVante Parker, as #11 has now gone from a so-called “first-round bust,” to a “first-round star.”
Follow Brandon on Twitter @BrandonRLiguori