The University of Washington has a number of exciting players on the offensive side of the ball, but they have talent on defense too including Sean Parker, their strong safety. Parker gives them a good player on the back end of the defense that comes up and looks like an extra linebacker against the running game.
Parker is not ideal in terms of his size, but he is a terrific football player with an obvious fit at the next level who has been good and could get even better. He has been a big hitter and an impact tackler but he could be more consistent in that department and become better in coverage. His passion for the game is evident and that should help him as he looks the part of a top 100 pick. Parker is not going to get any taller but he could become a smarter and more consistent player as he goes into the NFL. The frustration with Parker is that he is so close to being a great player if he can just iron out some issues he has.
Vitals & Build
Parker is listed at 5’10” 190lbs with a thick build. He has a great deal of functional strength and is more athletic than he always shows. His short area quickness is solid but could be better and some of the things he does make him look worse than he is. Parker solid straight line speed as well but he is not a burner. Parker is going to get stronger but what he should focus on is improving his fluidity and flexibility, so he can maneuver in small spaces and does not get caught in a bad situation with changing directions as he has some speed but he needs to be able to adjust and maintain good angles.
Parker is an impact tackler but the results can be feast or famine. When Parker stays on his feet, fires with his hips and wraps up the opponent, he does it extremely well and the results are impressive. The aiming point can drift upward at times but Parker is not only a good tackler when he uses the right technique, he is an intimidator and sends a message. When Parker hits opponents, they tend to stay hit and there are examples of players who hear footsteps and know he is coming and it impacts their performance. He is also someone who can cause a fumble with how he hits. The other important aspect of his tackling to note is the vast majority of his tackles are clean. He is aggressive but does it the right way. There will be some hits that are helmet to helmet but they are not intentional and he is not launching himself; they are just bad luck and a result of an extremely fast game.
The problem for Parker is he does not always use the right technique and it gets him in trouble. The mistake he makes is leaving his feet and lunges at guys rather than keeping his feet under him and staying with the play. It makes Parker look he struggles in short areas with quick ball carriers when in reality he is just making a sloppy mistake. The other issue to be careful with is going for homerun hits when just getting the guy on the ground is what is needed and the angle does not allow an impact tackle to be made.
Parker is an aggressive run defender with good instincts and the ability to diagnose plays quickly. He comes downhill with a lot of speed and an attitude that he is going to make a play. Parker works to get downhill as quickly as he can because if there is any kind of tunnel effect, he is going to lay the wood on an opponent in the hole. He genuinely appears to enjoy the opponent running the football and in many ways acts as an extra linebacker in that situation. He does a good of flowing to the football when it goes out wide and getting in position to make the tackle. Plays that go to the sideline tend to be the ones where Parker gets in trouble with his tackling technique and is something in which he needs to get more consistent. He does take good angles for the most part but they do not do him much good when he gets there and misses the tackle, so either he needs to take a slightly more conservative angle to avoid trying to having to make tackles from the side or stop missing those sideline tackles.
Parker is not afraid to take on blocks and has shown some ability to shed, but it is something he can work to improve. At times in his career, he has slid up and become more of an extra linebacker in their scheme, but that was not as common in his senior year with Desmond Trufant in the NFL. Parker is extremely comfortable playing at any level in the defense and coming up and attacking the run, but just has to be smart with how he approaches tackles.
Laterally, Parker’s range can be somewhat limited so he has to be smart with how he plays, especially when it comes to zone. He does a pretty good job of maintaining his position while watching the quarterback’s eyes and breaks on the ball well when the ball is in the air. Parker shows good instincts and plays faster than he might time as a result.
His lack of height can be a problem when he tries to get his hands on the football at times but if Parker is not going to get there in time, he is going to punish the guy who is. Parker is an intimidator and there are instances where opponents are legitimately uncomfortable with him patrolling behind them. As a result, he can make plays without actually making plays. He will occasionally get hit with a pass interference call if his timing is off or a personal foul because of the way rules are going, but his style is pretty clean and it is effective.
Parker can contribute in man coverage and not surprisingly, likes to be physical and get his hands on the opponent when he is near the line of scrimmage. He is able to play up in the box and almost seems to prefer it because it does enable him to him to get a jam on the receiver. Athletically, he has the ability to matchup with tight ends but he does give up a lot of height and there are some that can beat him with speed if he is not careful. Fluidity and quick hips are extremely important for him to stay in coverage and that could be the key for him. He does a pretty good job and is able to stay in position, but should continue working on it to make up for great top end speed. Parker has also shown some ability to stay with receivers but that is a more precarious situation for any length of time. He should match up well with tight ends and running backs out of the backfield.
Parker is able to make plays when he is able to get his hands on the ball. He has shown solid hands and makes the plays he should. His lack of height and length can make it difficult to make plays, but some of the drop off from his sophomore campaign where he had four interceptions was simply due to the fact that teams were keeping an eye on where he was on the field, because he could make plays, both with his hands, and leading with his shoulder. He might actually end up with more opportunities early in his NFL career and he is a player who can get a few interceptions because he is smart and keeps his head on the swivel and eyes on the football.
Parker is a strong safety who can thrive in the box, cover tight ends and make some plays in zone coverage. His biggest strength is what he can do against the run and the fact he can play the safety position like an extra linebacker. He can help in coverage but obviously his height is a hurdle he will have to clear against tight ends at the next level. There are tight ends who will have nine to ten inches on him, so he can play step for step with them, but he will be at a disadvantage against height and players able to high point the football.
Parker is extremely comfortable playing in the box or on the back end, so he does give teams a number of options. Whether in base or nickel packages, he has been moved down into the box like an extra linebacker and is able to play in coverage from that position. It is important that the team he plays on has a solid free safety that can protect the deep part of the field for him to do it, but Parker gives teams options and can fit a wide range of schemes as a result.
It is almost eerie how much he resembles T.J. Ward of the Cleveland Browns. The former Oregon Duck came into the league by the surprise of all onlookers in the early second round after missing a significant amount of his college career with injuries to his legs. All he has done since coming into the league is made plays, both as a tackler but also in coverage and he may still be getting better while outperforming everyone who was expected to go in that range. Parker may not be quite the athlete Ward is, but Parker has been able to stay healthy throughout his college career, so he could have a similar type of career in the NFL. Both guys have shown they could cover tight ends despite being short, the ability to lay the wood and cause turnovers. Ward may help Parker’s draft stock.
Parker is a traditional strong safety with the ability to play the run but is able to help against the pass. Increasingly, the safety position is turning into a position that is expected to be a dual-role; commonly a safety that can play like a corner or like a linebacker in addition to filling the role of being a safety. Parker is the second and his hammer style looks like it should go right around the top 100. He still has potential going forward if he can get more fluid with his athleticism. If he can get more consistent with his technique as a tackler, he can start and be an effective player for years.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com