Entering the 2023 NFL Draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars’ wide receiver room was a point of contention. While many fans were happy with a room that, since last year, added former Falcon Calvin Ridley and lost Marvin Jones Jr. to the Lions, others were skeptical of Ridley’s return after a year-long suspension and pushed for an early WR to ensure an arsenal of weapons for Trevor Lawrence.
When the Jaguars drafted Penn State WR Parker Washington with the 185th overall pick, the general response was positive. After all, he was a highly-touted prospect who received an average late 4th-round grade, with some ranking him as high as the 86th overall player. The Jaguars managed to get him in the 6th round.
But what makes Parker Washington so exciting?
The first thing that strikes you watching Washington’s tape is his hands. During his three-year stint at Penn State, Washington hauled in 66.7% of his total targets and 94.8% of his catchable targets, dropping only 8 passes of 154 catchable targets. For reference, his college drop rate of 5.2% is slightly lower than Christian Kirk’s college drop rate of 5.3% and considerably lower than Calvin Ridley’s 9.3%. It is also notable that Washington’s drop rate decreased each year in college from 7.0% in 2020 to 5.6% in 2021 and an impressive 2.0% in 2022. His soft hands are also demonstrated in contested catch situations, in which Washington hauled in 5 of 7 contest catches during the 2022 season, good for second-highest in the 2022 WR class. Take a look at some of these eye-popping catches below:
Parker Washington had the fifth-biggest hands (10 1/8 inches) among WRs at the NFL Combine— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) April 18, 2023
It's not a coincidence that he made plenty of tough catches at Penn St, whether it was in traffic or simply an inaccurate pass
He caught 5 of 7 contested-catch opportunities in '22 (PFF) pic.twitter.com/s16i6XUKep
Beyond his elite catching ability, Washington is a beast in the open field. While we did not have the opportunity to see his athletic testing numbers at the 2023 NFL Combine, his measurables are similar to those of a light running back, and he uses this strength to his advantage. As evidenced by his tape, Washington has a great sense of balance, frequently bounces out of tackles, and it often takes multiple defenders to take him down. Over the past two seasons, Washington hauled in 110 catches and managed to break 31 tackles.
A majority of Parker Washington's NFL Draft tape is him torching Ohio State's secondary pic.twitter.com/NylyrgA0EY— Locked On Nittany Lions (@LockedOnNittany) April 20, 2023
A natural question would be why Washington fell to the Jags in the 6th round. The most common knock against him is his size; he measures in at 5’10” with an arm length of 29”, which are at the 13th and 6th percentile, respectively, for NFL wide receiver prospects. However, considering both Washington’s 87.5% college snap count from the slot and the success of Christian Kirk (5’10” with 30 3/8” arms) from the slot in Doug Pederson’s offense, this seems less worrisome. If you question Washington’s ability to play from the slot in an NFL scheme, consider this: In 2020, Washington’s PFF slot grade was 94.2, even higher than 2023 Seahawks first-round draft pick Jaxson Smith-Njigba’s slot grade that year of 92.4.
While his playing time may be limited during his rookie year considering a crowded Jaguars WR room, Parker Washington’s slot ability and exciting athletic tools are certainly deserving of optimism, and it would be surprising if the season ends without a few big plays from our new rookie wideout.