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Draft Darlings: Parker Washington plays bigger than his measurables

Kansas City could make use of a receiver who can make a larger impact than his size would suggest.

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NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

From Jordan Addison and Zay Flowers at the top of the draft to Joshua Downs and Jalin Hyatt in the next tier, the 2023 NFL Draft is littered with smaller wide receivers. All four of these well-known draft prospects weigh in at less than 183 pounds and stand no more than 6 feet tall.

There are many more throughout the class. But there is one shorter receiver who is unlike the others: Penn State’s Parker Washington. He is one of only two receivers under 6 feet to weigh over 200 pounds — and boasts the fifth-biggest hands among wide receivers at the NFL Combine.

That makes Washington a unique prospect — especially for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Here’s what to know about him:

Background

Christopher Parker Washington is from Sugar Land, Texas, where he attended William B. Travis High School. He has a professional-athlete pedigree. His cousin Joshua Dobbs is a veteran backup quarterback for the Cleveland Browns who is now entering his seventh NFL season. Cousin Tyler Tolbert is a second baseman with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, a Kansas City Royals AA affiliate. Older sister Ashton is the player personnel coordinator for the Chicago Bears.

He played wide receiver and running back in high school — and also participated in track and basketball. A four-star football recruit, he committed to Penn State over Kentucky, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

He broke out as a true freshman, racking up 489 yards and six touchdowns in 2020, earning a spot on The Athletic’s Freshman All-American team. Over his three-year career with the Nittany Lions, he appeared in 32 games, catching 146 passes for 1,920 yards and 12 touchdowns. He earned an honorable mention to 2022’s All-Big 10 team.

Unfortunately, Washington’s 2022 season ended prematurely after he injured his left ankle, forcing him to miss the final three games — including Penn State’s Rose Bowl victory. He was invited to the NFL Combine, where he checked in at 5 feet 10 and 204 pounds, with 10 1/8-inch hands and 29-inch arms. He did not participate in athletic testing at either the Combine or Penn State’s pro day.

Film evaluation

Through his first two seasons, Washington played almost exclusively in the slot — getting 91% of his snaps there — but in 2022, that dropped to 71%, giving him more experience on the outside.

The first thing that stands out in Washington’s tape is how tough it is to bring him down after the catch. This is where his weight shows up: he’s stronger and denser than most receivers who are used in similar ways. He can run through arm tackles — and most of the time, it takes multiple defensive backs to bring him down.

While Washington doesn’t display elite speed or quickness after the catch, he moves smoothly in space — and approaches crowds of defenders like a running back would.

When the ball is in the air, Washington plays much bigger than his height. He has instinctual feel for going after the ball in contested-catch situations. He can also use his large hands to grab inaccurate passes outside his body — and at Penn State, he had a lot of experience with those tough catches. In 2022, Washington caught five of his seven contested catches. He can not only do it deep along the sideline, but also across the middle in traffic.

Washington also separates himself from most shorter receivers with good effort as a blocker, bringing his weight with him as he handles cornerbacks on the perimeter.

How he fits with the Chiefs

Should Kansas City select Washington — likely somewhere from the third through fifth rounds — he would probably play a role to similar to Skyy Moore’s in 2022: someone without an immediate offensive role, but who will still get some targets here and there. Stylistically, he is similar to Moore — which at first, could restrict his offensive role.

But Washington could have the upper hand over Moore in making contested catches — while displaying a similar ability to get yards after the catch. It could lead to these two being used interchangeably as strong, solid slot receivers who play bigger than their size.

The bottom line

Washington’s all-around ability as a receiver makes him a fit for the Chiefs. He could give the offense another layer of unpredictability in how it can align its receivers — and give it someone who can make plays both before and after the catch.

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