The 2014 NFL Draft was loaded with quality wide receivers, and the 2015 class appears to be just as stocked. Alabama’s Amari Cooper entered the draft season as the consensus king of the class, but both West Virginia’s Kevin White and Louisville’s DeVante Parker continue to be mentioned in the same breath.
All three wideouts could hear Roger Goodell call their name within the first 10 picks of the upcoming draft, but who is the better fantasy option: Cooper, White, or Parker?
It’s extremely difficult to find a reason for dethroning Cooper. He was über-productive at one of the top programs in the country, and his scouting reports read like a checklist for a WR1: polished route runner with an innate ability to get open, quality hands and the ability to adjust to all types of throws, a big body he uses to shield defenders and win contested catches, and playmaking ability after the grab. If you must quibble, at 6-1 and 210 pounds he’s a shade below ideal size for an elite wide receiver, and he doesn’t have elite speed either. A dynasty investment in Cooper is a blue-chip stock, with a higher floor offsetting the potential lower ceiling Cooper has compared to White and Parker.
White made his case to be the first receiver off the board when he blazed a 4.31 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine. That followed a breakout senior season at West Virginia, where it all came together in a 109-catch season. There is no denying what White brings to the table as a physical specimen, with a big, strong body, long arms and a large catching radius, and reliable hands. White uses his strength to outmuscle defensive backs and gain separation, with the ability to win contested balls and break tackles after the catch. His route-running needs polish, and he ran a limited route tree at West Virginia so there’s a learning curve, plus the “one-hit wonder” concerns after White he played two seasons of junior college football and underwhelmed as a junior at West Virginia. Optimists believe White is only scratching the surface of his ability, which is why some see his long-term NFL ceiling as higher than Cooper’s.
Perhaps Parker is still the third wheel in this battle, but he’s hardly a consolation prize. He has many of White’s physical attributes, specifically size and long arms that give him an enormous catch radius. His college numbers aren’t nearly as impressive as Cooper’s or White’s, as he missed half of his final season due to a foot injury. Parker takes time to build to top speed and isn’t elusive after the catch, but he’s a good enough route runner to consistently get open on short and mid-range routes and he knows how to come down with contested balls. There’s a great deal of Alshon Jeffery to Parker’s game, and if he’s paired with a quarterback with the guts to throw it up and let him go get it—perhaps a reunion with college teammate Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota?—he has the requisite tools to be an immediate impact receiver.
Of course draft-day destination will be a key factor in breaking this logjam, as it might take the perfect scenario for Parker and bad situations for both Cooper and White for Parker to leapfrog to the top of the rookie fantasy wideout board. Until the teams are known, however, Cooper remains the “safe” selection with plenty of upside, while White brings a bit more risk to the table—as well as the size, skill set and ascending arc to become the top fantasy receiver in this class.