Our NFL rookie profile series continues with the analysis of 2023 NFL Draft Prospect Parker Washington, WR from Penn State. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analyses right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league.
Parker Washington is a player who seems to be flying under the radar. This is all despite the fact he was the leading receiver on a Nittany Lion team that finished 7th in the final AP standings. Such is life when you miss the final games of your last collegiate season, and remain too unhealthy to fully participate in either the NFL Combine, or the Penn State Pro Day.
But Washington not being at the forefront of the 2023 rookie class doesn’t mean he can’t still provide a return on investment. Let’s dive a bit deeper to potentially unearth a hidden gem!
Courtesy of Sports Reference
Washington’s stats don’t jump off the page, but context is important here. His true freshman campaign occurred during a time we all wish we could forget – the Covid-marred 2020 season. I acknowledge I’m interjecting my own opinions into this, but it’s hard to imagine going into college as an 18-year-old and anticipating one of college football’s greatest atmospheres, only to play in front of mostly empty seats. Continuing, he was also sharing the field with future first round pick Jahan Dotson, and future second round pick Pat Freiermuth (for about half the season). These stats were still enough to see establish a breakout age of 18.5 years (96th percentile).
As a sophomore, Washington was still sharing time with Dotson, and again functioned as the Robin to Dotson’s Batman. Still, he managed to secure the team’s second-most receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns on the year.
In his junior year, Washington was primed to function as the alpha pass catcher on the team, but the breakout never materialized. He actually averaged slightly fewer receptions per game, and about two fewer yards. Never much of a touchdown scorer, Washington could only secure two end zone catches. Part of this was likely due to Penn State actually having a rushing game, which resulted in 62 fewer passing attempts on the year. Still, Washington appeared to have realized his ceiling as a sophomore.
Of note, Washington did step up when the competition was the fiercest! In three games against Ohio State, he compiled a sterling 20-360-1 line. If only he could face the Buckeyes every week…
Unfortunately for Washington, this is where the news gets even worse. On the other rookie profile articles, you’d be looking at cool spider charts, RAS testing results, and player comparables. With Washington, due to his injury, all we have is:
- Height: 5’9 5/8”
- Weight: 204 pounds
- Arm Length: 29”
- Hand Size: 10 1/8”
- Bench Press: 16 reps
As can be seen, Washington is small in stature and with short arms, meaning there aren’t any measurables to support a larger catch radius. He has bigger hands (this actually does show up on tape) and has above-average strength.
His 40-yard dash would be estimated in the 4.5-second range, and while he doesn’t have any agility testing, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was above average as well.
As always, the usual disclaimer applies. This is a highlight reel, and it’s meant to show Washington in the best possible light. That said, it doesn’t disappoint!
These clips are why I believe we were robbed of seeing Washington perform the full range of Combine drills. His film shows traits that would potentially translate into legitimate explosion, and likely a smooth run in the gauntlet.
- Washington gets open in the middle of the field, often by yards.
- He rarely goes down at first contact, and nearly always falls forward.
- As noted earlier, his hand size shows up in the film, as he’s an extremely clean hands catcher, and shows an ability to corral off-target throws.
- He has the ability to play like a running back in open space, showing an ability to make would-be tacklers miss, and often pinballing off of defenders.
- He plays both inside and outside.
- He’s not a burner, and isn’t going to run away from faster players.
- Whether it’s due to a smaller stature or just a bad habit, he has a tendency to jump-catch the ball when it’s not really necessary.
- Quite simply, there is a lack of junior season highlights, which seem to amplify the likelihood that he’s not meant to be the first option on a passing offense. This is further born out in a 31st percentile college dominator rating, and a 55th percentile target share.
“Out of sight, out of mind” is unfortunately more than just a cliché. In Washington’s case, he’s currently the 49th ranked rookie on DLF, and the WR20. In a 12-team league with a four-round draft, he’s not even Mr. Irrelevent, which would fall to Northwestern’s Evan Hull.
To me, this represents an opportunity to buy. We’ll need to see where his draft capital winds up, but his ability to function in the slot could potentially give him an “in” as early as year one. This wouldn’t require him to function as the top dog on offense, which doesn’t appear to be a role that suits him.
While I’ll always be a fan of Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford, he didn’t do his receivers a lot of favors. The types of highlight reel catches made by Washington and Dotson often shouldn’t have been needed if the ball was placed where it should have been. Clifford was a great leader, but he’s likely not anything more than a camp arm in the NFL.
I note this because on the right offense, Washington may still have some as yet unlocked potential. He was a former four-star recruit, and as noted above he broke out as a true freshman on a loaded passing offense. In the fourth round, these are the types of guys I’m gravitating towards.
Based on body composition and style of play, high-end comparisons would include players like Randall Cobb or Deebo Samuel (sans running back functionality). A low-end comp would be a player like Lynn Bowden, who just couldn’t ever figure it out (though noting there was a position switch involved). Size isn’t everything, especially in this year’s draft which seems to be dominated by players of smaller stature. Perhaps Washington can join them in future fantasy viability.
- 2023 Dynasty Fantasy Football Rookie Prospect: Parker Washington, WR Penn State - April 21, 2023
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