Pro Football Focus released their look at players who need to make an impact in 2017 in a “make-or-break” year for each of the five players listed. Each of these players is a member of the 2015 NFL Draft first-round class, which means, following this year, their respective teams will have to decide whether to use the fifth-year option included in their rookie contract. NFL rookie deals are all four-year contracts, but first-round players have a fifth-year team option included in the deal, which would add a year to the player’s time with his club while paying him an average of either the top ten players at his position (top ten draft pick) or an average of the top 25 players at his position (picks 11 through 32).
Included in the list is Miami Dolphins wide receiver DeVante Parker. In his first two seasons, Parker recorded 82 receptions for 1,238 yards with seven touchdowns. He played in 30 games, but only recorded 12 starts over that time, disappointing for a first-round wide receiver but understandable with the injuries that have slowed him early in his career.
Reports throughout the Dolphins’ organized team activities have indicated that Parker is looking healthy and appears set for a breakout this year. It could not come at a better time, both for the Dolphins who are looking to take the next step after making the playoffs last year and for Parker, who will be looking for that fifth-year option or a new contract.
There was a lot of hype around Parker after he was drafted, with many thinking he could become a go-to wide receiver for the Dolphins. His rookie year was marred with struggles, as he caught just 26-of-44 targets for 494 yards and three touchdowns while dropping four passes. His overall grade of 73.7 ranked 50th among receivers with more than 300 snaps played. It wasn’t quite the year people expected, but his 19.0 yards per reception screamed big time potential.
Going into last season, there was even more hype (and pressure) on Parker to take that next step to becoming the elite receiver he was drafted to be. He improved for sure, catching 60 passes (on 88 targets) for 799 yards and four touchdowns. He also dropped just one pass. He finished with the 26th best wide receiver grade in the league at 79.6. Again not quite the elite numbers many expected, but a marked improvement and step in the right direction.
While at times last season he showed that he could be a number one receiver, consistency was an issue for him. He had five games in which he caught two or fewer passes. That simply isn’t good enough for an expected ‘go-to receiver.’ Parker will need to use 2017 to prove to the Dolphins that he can be the player they drafted him to be, otherwise he could see his fifth-year option declined.
PFF’s write-up is a little skewed without the mention of Parker’s injuries during his first two seasons, including the lingering hamstring issue that bothered him throughout much of the first half of 2016, but they are not wrong in that this is the year Parker needs to become the player Miami thought they were drafting. Parker has not been a disappointment in terms of being a “draft bust” but he has not been a “number one” wide receiver either.
This year, Miami will definitely be looking for a breakout from Parker, and early indications are that he could be set up for that breakout. If he does have the kind of year the Dolphins are anticipating, the decision on the fifth-year option should be a fairly simple one for the team.