Without a doubt, the first thing that jumps out at you about Donald Parham is his size. At 6’8” and 240 pounds, his measurables seem more suited to a college basketball forward than an NFL tight end.
Having played at Stetson, as a senior in 2018, Parham was a consensus All-American who earned first team recognition from the American Football Coaches Association, the Associated Press, the Walter Camp Football Foundation, STATS FCS, Phil Steele Publications, Athlon Sports and HERO Sports in addition to being named to the FCA Athletics Directors Association All-Star team, per gohatters.com. He finished the season as the top receiving tight end in all of college football, leading Division I (FBS and FCS) in both receptions per game (9.4) and receiving yards per game (146.6)
He initially went to OTAs with the Detroit Lions, but they — as you may recall — drafted TJ Hockenson back in April, and didn’t keep Parham.
When the Lions cut him, he attended a couple of tryout camps, and then signed with the Redskins. With Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Jeremy Sprinkle — not to mention Matt Flanagan and J.P. Holtz — the Redskins’ depth chart will be hard to break into, but, clearly, Parham is someone whom the team has identified as having potential.
In an April pre-draft profile, Hogs Haven looked at Parham, and summarized his opportunity in Washington:
Parham projects as a late round pick with potentially a very high ceiling who could play both the slot and TE. Unfortunately, he doesn’t appear to have a lot of value in the context of special teams. However, with 36” arms, Parham has an unparalleled catch radius and the potential to be a quarterback’s best friend in the red zone.
The DraftNetwork had Parham with a 6th round grade. Here are a few of the highlights from their draft profile:
Struggles with the physical nature of play necessitated by the tight end position and will be moved to a slot WR role at the next level.
Does not have a future [as an in-line blocker]. Lacks the required thickness throughout his frame, full-body power, and leverage points to be effective, though effort is not lacking.
Offers plus ability [as a blocker in space]. Generally a huge, long dude who will present problems to players almost a foot his lesser. Is willing to activate his hands and has the ability to overwhelm and finish with his length and height.
Will be most successful in his college role, as a big slot receiver used heavily on downfield concepts. Offers great value to teams who ask their slot receivers to block and run their offense from the slot.
Step frequency is low and thereby change of direction takes forever: not a player who will win in the quick game with option routes.
Donald Parham is a big slot receiver at the next level, with as high-ceiling/low-floor projection as you’ll find in a player. At his best, Parham could prove a depth-caliber receiver (WR3/4) used in match-up situations to present an unprecedented problem for defenses. At his worst, Parham’s lack of thickness, play strength, and quickness will spell practice squad purgatory for him. Parham likely is a fringe rosterable player who will struggle early on given his lack of special teams ability.
If you’re interested in seeing some film of Parham, Steelers Depot did an in-depth pre-draft profile on him that includes a fair bit of GIF review, including this one that shows why some NFL scouts and coaches are interested in Parham:
Interestingly, the Steelers Depot profile gave a 3rd round draft grade, but a Day 3 projection for Parham. Also interestingly, all three draft profiles that I looked at on Parham had a few things in common:
- They all projected him to be drafted and unavailable as a free agent when the selections were finished.
- They all said he was physical, but not a skilled in-line blocker, though he uses his hands effectively when blocking. In other words, he blocks well for a receiver, but poorly for a tight end.
- They all noted his lack of special teams play.
- They all described him as a red-zone threat, a physical mismatch for defensive backs, and as a slot receiver.
I get the sense that the description of Parham as a tight end is deceiving, even in terms of the position he played at Stetson, and he won’t be able to play tight end in the NFL, but will need to find a home as a big slot receiver who is in the back half of the receiving depth chart.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal wrote a profile article on Parham during the lead up to the Senior Bowl.
“Stetson tight end Donald Parham is a gazelle,” tweeted Brad Kelly, a scout for the NFL Draft Network.
“They had to turn the ceiling fan off before he stood up,” Dane Brugler, a Draft analyst for The Athletic, jokingly (maybe) tweeted.
“He has a 36-inch VJ (vertical jump),” said 18-year NFL scout Jim Nagy, who added that Parham’s wingspan measured in at 84 inches earlier this week. “Just throw it up to him!”
Nagy has seen more of Parham than most this week. Last summer, he was named the Executive Director of the Reese’s Senior Bowl, and invited the towering (6-foot-8, 243-pound) Stetson tight end to the all-important showcase earlier this month.
Now in its 70th year, the Senior Bowl is considered the unofficial kickoff to NFL Draft season, with the top college prospects in the country gathering in Mobile, Alabama, for a week of practice in front of NFL coaches, general managers and executives.
“We didn’t have any tape but the Stetson staff sent us an all-targets cutup (video) in late October and it sold us,” Nagy tweeted after officially announcing Parham’s invite.
Parham put a bow on a spectacular Stetson career last fall with a record-breaking season, recording 85 receptions, 1,319 yards and 13 touchdowns for the Hatters, who finished with their most wins (eight) since 1951.
Parham finished the season as the top receiving tight end in all of college football, leading Division I (FBS and FCS) in both receptions per game (9.4) and receiving yards per game (146.6). The Lakeland native capped his Stetson career with the school record for receptions (180), receiving yards (2,591) and receiving touchdowns (20), along with the program record for career all-purpose yards (2,591) in 34 career games.
“Donald expressed interest in playing in the NFL early on, and we laid out what he had to do in order for him to get there,” said Stetson head coach Roger Hughes. “Nobody knew it would come to fruition like it did this year, though. I saw an elevation in his commitment this summer. He stayed at school, worked out, and made sacrifices to get in physical condition to play at that level.”
“I just want to play,” he added. “Whoever picks me up, it would be a great honor. The fact that I’d even be able to play (in the NFL) is what I’d really look forward to. I’d like to be able to leave my own legacy one day, and hopefully I’ll get the opportunity.”
So, we have a picture of a physically tall kid who killed the competition at Stetson University, but who will possibly struggle at the next level due to his lack of special teams play, his somewhat slight frame and lack of blocking ability, but who grabs the attention of offensive coordinators and head coaches because of his potential to create matchup problems for NFL defensive backs.
I’m intrigued, but also not sure how Donald Parham will fit with the Redskins.
For help in sorting Parham out and getting to a “bottom line” understanding of the player, I’ve turned to a film analyst, James FitzGerald, who has volunteered to give his take on the Redskins UDFAs.
James FitzGerald (@GMDfitz7765) is a former college player, high school coach, and an avid college football fan who has spent hours in the film room watching opponents and his own teams. His analytical skill adds depth to these profiles that I can’t supply on my own.
Let’s see what he has to say.
Fitz’s film review
Film Watched: Stetson v. Sacred Heart + Multiple highlight films
Donald Parham runs a routes from many positions: the X, the slot, tight end, half back etc. He really can run his routes from anywhere.
He is okay at stalk blocking defensive backs down the field; however, he does this with a high pad level.
He is strong when catching the football. If he is going up for a jump ball he is coming down with it. He also uses his body and size to box out defenders.
BiB Comment: After listening to Jay Gruden talk for years about the desire to have guys who can do this (Josh Doctson, more recently Kelvin Harmon), I begin to understand what the Redskins see in this prospect.
Parham breaks tackles with his power AND beats defenders with his speed. This combination could make it easy to create mismatches downfield.
Parham also has soft hands. He makes catching the football seem easy. He goes up and gets the football at the high point and he uses his hands to catch it rather than relying on body catches.
On the downside, Parham struggles blocking linebackers and defensive ends. When he lines up in the tight end spot on a run play, he is simply a terrible run blocker. Parham’s pad level is far too high and he will get bullied on the NFL level trying to block as a tight end. He cannot block a player that is stronger than he is, and he will not solve the ‘Skin’s need for a tight end that can catch and block consistently.
Actually, he rarely lined up in the tight end position in college. When he did, he looked uncomfortable in his stance. He has the tight end size, but he lined up at wide receiver mostly. This tells me that they didn’t trust him to block, and/or he gets knocked of his route too easily by a defensive end or linebacker.
How would he fit with the Redskins?
It’s hard to imagine the Skins signing another tight end who can’t put his hand in the dirt and block. The team already has two tight ends in Reed and Davis who fit that description. However, what the Skins don’t have is a 6’8 jump ball threat. If he is able to make the team, that will be his role.
Donald Parham doesn’t play special teams, and that will greatly hurt his chances. I think his receiving ability alone gives him an opportunity to make the practice squad, but I don’t see him playing tight end at the next level as he simply plays poorly with his hand in the dirt.
He’s a very long shot for the 53, and, if he makes the practice squad, it’s as a receiver not a tight end.
Polls: As UDFAs go, rate Donald Parham:
This poll is closed
How good are the chances that Donald Parham is on the Redskins roster in 2019?
This poll is closed
A taste of Donald Parham’s Twitter feed:
Great video for the people to see https://t.co/YR4mRfpKJ9— Donald Parham Jr.(6’8) (@Jiggydd_49) April 26, 2019
Her legs the same color as the dress ♂️ https://t.co/86PpYBCcE3— Donald Parham Jr.(6’8) (@Jiggydd_49) May 8, 2019
Boy people be finding the funniest details of any given situation https://t.co/TAGhLcOUr1— Donald Parham Jr.(6’8) (@Jiggydd_49) May 8, 2019
College coach recruiting vs When you step on campus pic.twitter.com/GyktEZEX1g— Burger Basket (@ROADS2GREATNESS) May 6, 2019
All these minicamp vids got me hyped— Donald Parham Jr.(6’8) (@Jiggydd_49) May 4, 2019