When the discussion around Big Ten wide receiver factories of recent memory starts up, the first program to come to mind is rightfully the Ohio State Buckeyes. Ohio State’s recent stretch of production at wide receiver position includes Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave this spring, Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin in 2019, Curtis Samuel and Noah Brown in 2017 and Michael Thomas in 2016. There have been others, too — and more still to come. But don’t sleep on Penn State’s contributions to the conference’s legacy as a recent wide receiver factory. Jahan Dotson, KJ Hamler, Chris Godwin and Allen Robinson have all been top-100 selections at the position over the last eight years, leaving Penn State with an impressive heritage of their own. And while Ohio State has Jaxson Smith-Njigba as their next in line star receiver, Penn State indeed has their own heir lined up as well: wide receiver Parker Washington.
If you don’t know the name, you certainly will. Washington is a well-built slot receiver who is only beginning to tap into his potential as a pass catcher. And with Dotson off to the next level, Washington enters the 2022 campaign as the uncontested top wide receiver in the Nittany Lions’ passing offense. No, Washington might not be as dynamic as Dotson is, but he’s got his own unique set of skills; most notably his contact balance and ball skills to haul in errant passes that test his catch radius.
So with Washington well aligned to absorb the volume in the Penn State passing offense and offering clear flashes of his potential last season en route to a 64-reception, 820-yard (12.8 ypc) and four-touchdown catch season, one of the big questions looming over Happy Valley this upcoming season is how high can Washington climb amid the wide receiver ranks for the 2023 NFL Draft. As a junior pass catcher, the hope for many in central Pennsylvania is likely that we’ll see the best version of Parker Washington for two more years at Penn State — but a strong campaign would likely position him in the first few rounds of the 2023 class; a hard platform to pass on.
I look at a player like Washington and see a range of scenarios that still offer him a comfortable strike zone to launch himself into the pros:
The best case scenario is that Washington lives up to the production standard set by Dotson last season (91 catches, 1,182 yards and 12 touchdowns as a receiver). If he does, even if it doesn’t look totally the same, you’d be looking at a possible back end of first-round level of expectation so long as Washington’s play mirrors his prior film resume. Dotson is faster and more twitchy, whereas Washington is more physical and has arguably the better catch radius.
I’m not sure that will be enough to supplant the Kayshon Boutte’s, the Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s and the Jordan Addison’s of the world. But I see no reason why it wouldn’t position him to file a claim for a ranking of WR4 through WR6. Tell me why Washington can’t be drafted in the same range as receivers like Kadarius Toney and Jalen Reagor, among others? Even in this class where contending names for that range could include Jermaine Burton, Quentin Johnston, Marvin Mims, Zay Flowers and others; Washington’s upside as both a route runner and ball vacuum is easy to buy into.
The middle case scenario is that Washington lives up to that some production standard but the questions surrounding the Penn State offense create roadblocks to a clear evaluation. Then? The evaluation likely falls in line with that of Skyy Moore out of Western Michigan last year; who also operated in a heavy RPO offense and put up 90-something receptions with 1,200 yards and double digit touchdowns in 2021. But that wasn’t enough to overcome a sub 5-foot-10 frame, even if he was densely built; and Moore was drafted 54th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs.
The worst case scenario for Washington would be no step forward at all or that he’s lapped by KeAndre Lambert-Smith or someone else at Penn State. Do I see that as a likely outcome? No. But if it comes to be, then Washington is likely looking at a day three projection and would be well served to come back for another go in Happy Valley.
In all, Parker Washington has the ability to be a first or second round pick fairly comfortably if he lives up to the potential I think he has as a pass catcher. But, as is always the case with these things, he’s going to have to go out on the field this fall and earn it.
- Jun 30, 2022