Not a single publication did not select Stetson TE Donald Parham as an FCS First-Team All-American this year.
Hey: if you're a small-school prospect who wants to get on NFL Draft radars, that's about as strong of a "Step 1" as you're going to find.
Parham is impossible to ignore no matter where you look. The publications -- Phil Steele, AP, FCS Coaches' Poll, STATS FCS -- are the first step. If you check out college stats, you'll find that Parham leads the nation's tight ends (in all divisions of football) in receptions/game and yards. And if you go to Stetson film...well, I'll let you try to figure out which one he is here.
Yeah, he's the one who looks like he's playing with 8th graders.
Parham's greatest strength right now is his height: he's a listed 6-foot-8. With the legs of a giraffe and arms of Inspector Gadget, you can understand why he's only listed at 240 pounds as well: dude is skin and bones. 240 pounds is light for any tight end, but when a guy is 6-foot-8 on top of it, it speaks to the lack of density through his frame. Parham is built like a supersized WR, not at all like a tight end -- and his skill set follows that mold.
Parham takes the majority of his reps from a slot alignment, and produced so distinctly as a tight end because Stetson used him as a wideout. While he enters the Senior Bowl as a listed tight end (replacing Notre Dame's Alize Mack), and I'm sure he'll go through tight end drills, teams will evaluate Parham as a potential big slot receiver for their team.
Now, Stetson used Parham as a big slot -- yes. But he often got safeties and linebackers flexed over top of him by the Hatters' opponents, and that...rarely went well for the other guys. Parham brings a great straight-line profiles of athleticism to compliment his tremendous size and catch radius; if you let him get on top of you, there's little left you can do.
Parham regularly wins in contested and covered situations, as he has the ideal blend of physical traits and play skills. The length and vertical explosiveness mean he can attack balls thrown to safe spots, away from the defender's leverage -- but he also locates downfield throws quickly and has an innate sense of timing to snag balls at their highest point. It's that talent that maximizes his catch radius and makes him a strong 50/50 threat.
You'll notice how long it takes Parham to get through his stem -- that's a problem he has with off- and catch-man coverage. Parham doesn't like getting collisioned in his route stem, and will veer far off-path to avoid it. He approaches awaiting defenders tentatively and must learn how to win by initiating contact and staying skinny through it. Otherwise, he allows congestion to slow him down and throws off the timing of the quarterback's drop and hitches -- that's a problem.
What isn't a problem is the briskness with which he releases from that contact. Once he gains leverage, he uses his huge stride length to eat up ground upfield and uncover, presenting a target for his quarterback on the seam route. When Parham gets into the middle of the field or seam freely, he's devastating -- that size and explosiveness profile is a nightmare for all but the biggest safeties.
Nice little release move here for Parham against off-man coverage. He runs that little speed out a lot, and I like how he layered that route into the stem of his slant here. You can see how, even though he isn't super quick, Parham gains a ton of space off of the release move right away, because of his stride length -- I can't emphasize how much that helps him get through the first level and into the second level. He just gobbles up ground.
Really nice, natural hand snag here -- and then he withstands the first blow. Both of these traits are key for NFL teams to see: they'll love Parham on RPO ideas and on shallow/intermediate crossers because of his ability to pluck high balls out of the air. But because he can withstand that first blow -- really surprising contact balance for a dude with such a long frame -- he can also generate some good yardage after the catch. That's big, because he isn't super elusive. I love his toughness for the amount of body blows he takes across the middle.
Parham is a little soft as a blocker, but it's not because of lack of effort -- and the most surprisingly positive aspect of his play was his ability to retain his balance, body control, and vestibular sense when he's being hit. Parham profiles as an ideal red zone threat because of his size and hand strength, but also because he remains concentrated and aggressive through contact. Even when he knows a hit is imminent, or has to adjust through a defender's body, he gets vertical and attacks the football.
When Parham elevates, he has no idea the safety is going to completely neglect the opportunity to lay the wood -- but he knows the corner in coverage will run through his torso. Never the less: quick to see, aggressive addressing the football, catch away from frame and through the ground. That's a lot of boxes to check for a red zone threat.
Parham's lack of special-teams ability or upside is concerning, as he's a poor in-line blocker and lacks the quickness traits of a punt gunner. It may limit his ability to get rostered in Year 1, but he projects as the ideal practice squad candidate given his level of competition, poor mass, and intriguing physical traits. Ideally, Parham develops into a WR3/4 who takes the majority of his reps in the slot and provides mismatch value in the red zone.
But if he wants to contribute earlier than Year 2 or 3, Parham must show that his physical dominance translates right now against NFL competition: and a late Senior Bowl bid is the best opportunity to do exactly that. Parham will face long safeties like Marquise Blair and Juan Thornhill; move LBs like Bobby Okereke and Chase Hansen. If he continues to separate with burst and bully with size, teams will be quick to snag him as a developmental "TE" prospect with insane mismatch potential at the NFL level.