As the 2019 College Football season starts to wind down, we continue to see players emerge as legitimate 2020 NFL Draft candidates. That includes gems I have previously mentioned on this site, such as Case Cookus, Jeremy Chinn, and Tom Flacco. Rhode Island wide receiver Aaron Parker is another player that has caught the eye of NFL scouts recently.
Below I will look at the traits that make Aaron Parker such a standout at the FCS level while diving into his best fit in the NFL. There is a lot to like about this big, confident WR, and Parker has a chance to hear his name called in the 2020 NFL Draft. Read on to get to know the Rhode Island playmaker, and you will see why NFL teams could soon take notice of this small school gem.
Parker before Rhode Island fame
Parker was a standout football and basketball player for Gwynn Park High School in Brandywine, Maryland. Gwynn Park produced another recent NFL standout in former New England Patriot cornerback Kyle Arrington. Arrington won a Super Bowl with the Patriots and played in 102 career NFL games. Parker earned All-County honors as a senior on the Gwynn Park football team, and co-MVP honors for his play on the hardwood.
From an early age, Parker was destined to make a name for himself on the gridiron. His uncle happens to be Marcus Easley, who played fullback for the San Francisco 49ers during their win in Super Bowl XVI. Despite his success in multiple sports and apparent athletic prowess, Parker only received one Division 1 scholarship to Eastern Washington.
The overlooked playmaker decided to attend Rhode Island and play linebacker for the Rams. However, it was apparent early on to coaches that Parker had great hands, and a move to WR was in the making. This position change was the right move and the start of something special for the former freshman sensation. Still learning the position, Parker recorded six starts as a freshman and caught 23 passes for 441 yards and four touchdowns.
A natural playmaker on the field
It was apparent early on that Parker was a natural fit at WR for the Rams. Making his first career start for the Rams, Parker scored a 23-yard game-winning touchdown to help defeat the Division 1 Kansas Jayhawks. His 441 yards as a freshman were a team-high, and the numbers would grow exponentially over his next three seasons. Parker made nine starts as a sophomore and nearly doubled his production from the previous year with 823 yards and seven scores. He also set a school record with a streak of at least one touchdown in nine consecutive games.
Parker made nine starts again during his junior season, leading all Colonial Athletic Association football players in receiving yards, receiving yards per game and touchdown catches during the regular season. He finished the 2018 season with 61 catches for 955 yards and ten touchdowns. Parker also added a rushing score and earned CAA Football First Team All-Conference in 2018. The 6’3″, 207-pounder was opening eyes and putting NFL scouting circles on notice as a legitimate playmaker at the FCS level.
This season, the senior WR and 2020 NFL Draft hopeful has been an absolute stud on the field and taken his game to the next level. Parker is averaging over 102 yards per game for 1,224 yards and nine scores through 12 games. He has almost single-handedly elevated Rhode Island’s passing offense to second overall in the CAA. The Rams are averaging over 302 passing yards per game with the help of their dynamic outside receiver.
Parker was asked about his success this season, and he said: “At the next level with especially coming from an FCS school, they want to see consistent numbers and that year to year you’re excelling even more.” Parker has done a great job of that this season and looks primed to get selected in April’s 2020 NFL Draft.
How he fits in at the next level
With his play on the field, Parker has already laid the groundwork for his future success in the NFL. As mentioned above, he has shown great consistency and improvement during each year at the collegiate level. This bodes well for how coaches and evaluators will evaluate his ability and commitment during the draft process. His exact speed is the most significant question mark, but those questions will get answered before the 2020 NFL Draft at Parker’s Pro Day and hopefully with an invite to the NFL Combine.
However, his size is the most considerable element to his game and natural ability to get open and create separation on his routes. Parker has also shown excellent concentration and an ability to high-point catches in tight coverage. Take a look at the great awareness on this touchdown grab against Brown University.
Rhode Island WR Aaron Parker does a great job of setting up the defender. He shows the ability to high point the ball. Makes a beautiful TD catch and does a tremendous job keeping his feet inbounds. ( @_____aaronn ) @RhodyFootball pic.twitter.com/eZqxSUSl17
— Robert Cardona (@CARDONAFAM29) October 10, 2019
He has accepted an invitation to compete in the East-West Shrine Game and will get a chance to prove he belongs amongst other 2020 NFL Draft hopefuls. At the NFL level, a player comparison I like is Miami Dolphins WR, DeVante Parker. Both players have similar size at 6’3″ and excellent leaping ability. Both Parkers also have the ability to make tough and contested catches look easy. The Dolphins WR has shown more consistency in 2019 and would be a good benchmark for the Rhode Island star to model his game after as he makes his way into the NFL.
The Baltimore Ravens are a team that could look Parker’s way come draft day. The Ravens have experienced recent success drafting players at the FCS level, such as Patrick Onwuasor, Michael Pierce and Patrick Ricard, and won’t hesitate to make a move for the right player. Parker could interest them as an excellent, big-bodied complement to their speedy 2018 first-rounder Marquise Brown.
As star quarterback Lamar Jackson progresses, it would be a smart idea for the Ravens to surround him with more weapons that can make plays on the outside. Aaron Parker could be that guy and is a legitimate 2020 NFL Draft prospect. He should be drafted in the 4th-6th round area come next April.
Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the NFL Draft. You can follow him at @sgormanPFN on Twitter.