Back when I was just a young donkey I was fascinated by fire. Whenever the stove top burner was ignited, it drew my attention. One time, when Momma-Donk wasn’t paying attention, I crept over to the stove and poked my hoof right into that beautiful flame. I did this about ten more times before I realized playing with fire hurt. I’ve always said, I’ll try anything 12 times.
And that’s how I ended up addicted to meth with DeVante Parker on my fantasy teams this past season. And this time the Parker flame burned my opponents as he torched his career highs in targets (128), receptions (72), receiving yards (1,202) and touchdowns (9). Heading into his age 27 season, he’s now coming off a massive career year in which he played the full 16 game slate for the first time. I ranked him #75 overall in my recent Top 200 Dynasty Rankings for 2020 Fantasy Football, but am I undervaluing this post-hype breakout down in Vice City?
I’ve highlighted three contributing factors to this unlikely 5th-year explosion: health, quarterback and coaching staff. Let’s take a closer look at each factor with an eye toward the future.
Parker really clicked with gunslinger quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick down the stretch and all signs point to a 2020 reunion with the FitzMagic Man, which bodes well for the wide-out. Looking longer-term, I’ve seen stud QB prospects Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert both mocked to the Dolphins at pick 5 in the 2020 NFL Draft.
For fantasy purposes I wouldn’t mind the devil we know, Fitzpatrick, chucking the rock Parker’s way for the next four years—Parker hits free agency in 2024 after signing a two-year extension back in December. Unfortunately, Fitz will turn 39 in November and there’s a chance he might not play forever. We certainly have something to dream on with one of Tua or Herbert as the likely heir apparent.
Head coach Brian Flores will also return in 2020 after exceeding expectations with a 5-11 record in his debut season in the sun; like Parker, four more years remain on Flores’s contract. But one change to consider for the coming season is new (and old) offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey, who held the Dolphins OC position back in 2000-2001.
While Gailey’s been known as a run-first guy across his extensive coaching career, he’s also considered a great teacher and innovator which aligns well with their potential incoming first-round quarterback. As a topper, Gailey spent five seasons working with Fitzpatrick from 2010-2016 in both Buffalo and New York. This is encouraging in relation to Parker’s dynasty value.
Coming into 2019 Parker had averaged 13.25 games per season over his first four years in the league as he battled a laundry list of nagging injuries to his ankle, foot, hamstring, quad and shoulder. Rumor has it he even suffered from a severe case of Peyronie’s Disease. Alright so I just made that rumor up; misery loves company.
While Parker’s played in at least 11 games in every season, it’s reasonable to assume he was at less than 100% in a good portion of those contests. The 16-game performance this past season has him on his way to shaking off that ugly “injury prone” tag. I’m not comfortable projecting him for back-to back full seasons quite yet, but 14 games feels like a reasonable expectation.
Statistically speaking, Parker’s numbers were beyond encouraging. He posted a beautiful 2019 resume, coming in at 5th in the league in receiving yards, 15th in targets, 4th in touchdowns and 11th in wide receiver PPR fantasy points. In addition, he finished the year 19th in Average Targeted Air Yards (TAY) with 13.8 air yards per target—meaning he ran a lot of deep routes, an obvious plus for fantasy production. He also landed at 14th in % Share of Team’s Air Yards (TAY%) at 33.11%—meaning he garnered a huge percentage of the Dolphins’ targeted yardage, another boon for fantasy production.
Just to splash a little cold water on the flame, there is reason for some reservation. The more I dug in on DeVante Parker and the Dolphins offense, the more excited I found myself for Parker’s teammate Preston Williams who landed at #89 in my Top 200 Dynasty Rankings for 2020 Fantasy Football. I’ll elaborate further on my Preston Williams love in the next edition.
Long story short, they’re very similar large-bodied deep threats. Logically, Parker’s numbers saw a steady upswing when Williams hit the IR in week 10 with a torn ACL. Williams is reportedly ahead of schedule in his recovery and expects to be ready for week 1.
Now maybe Williams draws some coverage away from Parker, but those total targeted air yards and red zone targets (14) seem destined to slide. Fortunately, we shouldn’t have to pay WR1 prices to land DeVante come draft season, as skeptics will be plentiful. I’m comfortable leaving Parker at #75 in my dynasty rankings, but wouldn’t argue much against him in the top 50 either. Just be safe and keep some burn cream nearby.
All statistics sourced from ProFootballReference.com & NextGenStats.NFL.com