The top two prospects for the Arizona Wildcats had always been Scooby Wright III and Cayleb Jones, both forgoing their senior year, declaring for the 2016 NFL Draft after their junior years. But, perhaps the hottest prospect on the board for Arizona is Will Parks, a 6-foot-1, 205 pound defensive back.
Since Arizona's Pro Day, Parks has been a hot commodity among NFL teams. Going into the season, Parks figured to have a pretty solid chance of being drafted. Where that was exactly in the draft, no one really knew. And we still don't really know where teams have him ranked, but he's going to make one NFL team very happy with their selection.
Career at Arizona
Parks was a four-year contributor for Arizona, and led the team in tackles in 2015 with 76 total (seven for loss), plus he had seven pass break-ups and two forced fumbles. In 2014, he had two interceptions and 81 tackles (13 for loss). He worked as a rotational defensive back in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
While he had a better season in 2014, I feel like the flow of the defense allowed him to be in better position to make a play. Having guys like Tra'Mayne Bondurant, Jared Tevis and Scooby Wright gave Arizona a lot of playmaking ability, with Parks reaping the benefits. Last season was a mess defensively, with Parks having to use his presence to keep a defense honest, rather than being able to come up and make a play.
Stats from sports-reference.com
Parks is versatile. Teams have been working him out as a safety and nickel corner, which both make sense, depending on personnel and defensive scheme. While he played different safety positions throughout his time at Arizona, I think it's fair to say that he mostly played down low, closer to the box, which might make him better suited as a nickel corner.
Parks' strength definitely comes in a zone coverage. Whether that's him patrolling the top of the field or coming down into the flats, he's able to read and react to the offense to come up and make a play. His ability to sniff out the play in the flats was extremely underappreciated. He's quick enough to react and move to the ball in different types of zone looks.
Parks also measured extremely well in many areas. He ran a really great 40, getting down to 4.51. Going into the process I would have thought that he'd be around the 4.65 range. He's also gotten a lot bigger and stronger during his time at Arizona. He put up 21 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press, which is one behind the leading safety at the NFL Draft Combine, and would have put him first among all cornerbacks.
This was Will Parks back in March on Pro Day.
Where things might get tricky for Parks is his man coverage. He has the speed to hang with NFL receivers, but he's going to need to continue working on his technique, which is something he's been refining. Playing in the slot, he'll need to utilize his strength too in a bump-and-run situation.
If he plays more corner, he'll probably have to work on his hands a little more. Looking back at Parks in coverage, I felt like he could have had a lot more interceptions throughout his career, getting his hands on the ball, just not being able to bring it down or tip it up to himself.
One last weakness on Parks could be his lateral movement. When the play is right in front of him, Parks' downhill speed and movement were great, but if the ball carrier got even with him, he looked a little more hesitant to react.
I like Casey Hayward as the Will Parks comparison for a few reasons. In the Green Bay defense, there's a lot of mixing and matching in the secondary, having safeties play corner and vice versa. He's also met with the Packers, which shows that there's a need for his versatility in this league. Hayward plays a little more corner than safety, but that's a transition that Parks will certainly be able to pull off.
Not too many draft sites have Will Parks on any sort of big board, but after receiving feedback from Pro Day, he was told by many teams that he would be drafted. It only takes one team to fall in love with a guy, and whether they value him as a fifth-round pick or seventh-round pick, Parks is likely to get drafted by a team who has a plan.
What's great about Will Parks is that he's taking visits to teams who have a system in place and know exactly how to manage a defense. And that's where Parks will operate at his best. He's had visits with the Denver Broncos, Dallas Cowboys, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers -- all have patience as far as developing guys in their system and a plan in place for their players.
There really shouldn't be a whole lot of hesitation when it comes to drafting Parks, especially with his value. Considering his projected draft position, he will be a steal for any team that grabs him in day three. Considering the fact that Shaquille Richardson and Marquis Flowers both went in the fifth and sixth round in the 2014 draft, you figure it's something similar for Parks in this draft class.
This is a guy who you want on your team.