The people who should be thrilled by Louisville wide receiver DeVante Parker joining the Dolphins as Miami’s first-round pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday night:
The Dolphins, Dolfans, Parker, quarterback Ryan Tannehill and, OK, if you’ll forgive a second of immodesty … me, too.
I accurately called Parker to the Fins with the 14th overall pick in my annual Mock Draft, but I’d seen it as a bit of wishful thinking. It took a confluence of circumstances to make it actually happen — stuff falling just right for Miami. And it did. The NFL’s 80th draft played out perfectly for the Dolphins.
“When he was still there at 14 there were a lot of high fives,” general manager Dennis Hickey said of the scene in Miami’s draft room. “We were excited to make the selection. Adding a playmaker to our offense was one of our goals. He’s a guy we’ve been following and tracking and he was by far the best player available for us. That was an easy decision.”
The Dolphins shored their defense earlier in the offseason by signing behemoth free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a game-changing Pro Bowl force.
Thursday they properly balanced that by stressing the other side of the line of scrimmage with the top of their draft.
Parker, a fraction under 6-3, is a field-stretching wideout who’s aggressive and terrific at leaping to claim contested passes. He’s a team-leader type, a willing blocker, too. He’ll be a red-zone force who reminds some of Bengals star A.J. Green. He is a No. 1-caliber pass catcher who finishes the arsenal at Tannehill’s disposal — and gives the young QB a chance to find his ceiling and be as good as he can be.
Parker, Jarvis Landry and Kenny Still all are 22, balanced by recently acquired veteran Greg Jennings, 31. This is an upgraded receiving corps. Departed Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline needed to go. The air in the room is cleared, fresher.
“I’m excited. I’m looking forward to it,” said Parker, who described himself as, “a big strong wide receiver who can catch anything and is great after the catch.”
There are some questions about Parker’s durability and physicality (imperfections are why a player slips to mid-round), but, in the words of analyst Jon Gruden, “Parker is a natural with great finishing speed.”
It also is worth noting that Parker is a hard worker and a strong character guy, something more and more important in the NFL and also in Miami. Wallace wasn’t always that. Suspended draft bust Dion Jordan sure wasn’t.
Parker brings no red flags, no concerns.
“Loves football,” said Hickey.
The Fins can use ensuing picks to fill in needs such as cornerback, guard and linebacker. What they did Thursday was get the best available player who also happened to fill a need — the perfect draft quiniela.
When I say things fell just right for Miami, understand that Parker was seen as going higher than 14 in many drafts, and two players the Dolphins had interest in also went higher: Running back Todd Gurley (10th to the Rams) and cornerback Trae Waynes (11th to the Vikings).
Miami could not have been faulted for drafting a top cornerback to pair opposite quality starter Brent Grimes, and Waynes would have seriously tempted.
However Miami could have been faulted for spending a No. 1 pick on a running back, and that’s why St. Louis helped saved Miami from itself by erasing any temptation to draft Gurley.
I didn’t get the fascination with Georgia’s Gurley for Miami, and the team’s braintrust surely asked itself the same questions I did:
Is running back the NFL’s most devalued position in what clearly has become a passing league? Yes.
Do the Dolphins already have a solid running game led by Lamar Miller, who just turned 24 and rushed for 1,099 yards and a robust 5.1 average last year?
Is it generally a good idea to draft a player ready to play now rather than one like Gurley, who is coming off a major injury and not ready to start the 2015 season?
This got the three-day draft off to a strong start for Miami.
“The draft should be fun,” as new vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum had said. “You’re improving your team.”
Thursday night was fun in the Dolphins’ draft room.
The team added a playmaker, some explosiveness, a little excitement.
The team got better.