FanPost

2022 NFL Draft: Will Dylan Parham be better than Creed Humphrey?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bait and Switch

Did putting Creed's name in the title trick you into reading this post? I could have gone with "make money working from home, just like Dylan Parham!" or "5 facts about Dylan Parham you won't believe!"

Champ asked me to take a look at Memphis interior offensive lineman, Dylan Parham. PFF loves Parham. They say he's a great fit for outsize zone scheme NFL teams, and rank him as the 68th overall prospect, which could make him a late 2nd to early 3rd round pick.

Way over on the other end of the spectrum, Tony Pauline ranked Parham as the 61st ranked guard. No, not the 61st ranked overall prospect, he's the 61st ranked player within the guard position group. Parham was only ranked as the 836th overall player by Pauline. That is so incredibly low, he might be a tryout player, not an UDFA. Granted, this is probably just because Pauline hasn't updated his draft board since Parham's stellar Senior Bowl performance. In Mobile, Parham showed up weighing 313 pounds, way up from his listed weight at Memphis of 285 pounds. Parham also demonstrated his pass blocking prowess in the individual drills with some great reps. Still, for Pauline to even have Parham graded so low in the first place is a sign that not everyone sees Parham as a can't miss prospect.

Does Parham deserve to be a 2nd round pick? Should he be an UDFA? Looking back on this draft years from now, will we be shocked to see that Parham became the best center in the draft, even better than the Iowa star, Tyler Linderbaum? Or will Parham be the next Jamil Demby and an example of how scouts can be deceived by what happens during Senior Bowl week?

This year is supposedly a weak draft class for centers. That's bad news for fans wanting the Rams to draft a center. Parham is a wild card in the group. Lance Zierlein's profile on Parham compares him to Andy Levitre, who was an excellent NFL guard, known for being a great pass blocker. Multiple other experts have compared Parham to Weston Richburg, who was the consensus top center prospect in the 2014 draft.

In general, I'm an advocate for investing resources (whether draft picks or money) into building a good OL and neither Levitre nor Richburg were bad draft picks. Still, how much did either of those players help the teams that selected them?

In 2009, the Bills drafted Eric Wood in the 1st round. One round later they traded up to get Levitre. A tackle in college at Oregon State, Levitre lacked the size and length necessary to play OT in the NFL. He was only 6'2 5/8'' tall, 305 pounds with 32.5'' arms. So, he would have to make the move inside and learn a new position as a pro.

As rookies, Wood started at RG, while Levitre started at LG. Both struggled, then Wood broke his leg in the middle of the season. The Bills had the 30th ranked OL in 2009. The unit was only slightly better the following season, ranking 24th. Wood got injured again. PFF characterized Levitre as "the least worst" offensive lineman for the Bills (instead of calling him "the best".)

Early in 2011, Ryan Fitzpatrick caught fire. The Bills beat the Patriots and started 5-2 on the season. The Bills rewarded Fitz with a lucrative new contract in the middle of the year. Then the wheels fell off. Fitz got banged up and the team had a series of injuries, including to OL positions. Levitre emerging as one of the best left guards in the NFL. Due to the OL injuries, he also had to slide over as a fill in replacement at LT and C. Levitre's position flexibility was very valuable to the team.

The Bills had the 4th ranked OL in 2011, despite the injuries, a dramatic improvement compared to being one of the worst OLs just a couple years prior. PFF named Levitre the "secret superstar" on their roster. While he wasn't as good as a run blocker, he was a very good pass blocker.

It is worth noting that in the 29 games Ryan Fitzpatrick started in 2010 and 2011, he had a total of 38 interceptions and 15 fumbles. He led the NFL in interceptions in 2011 with 23. So, even at the high water mark of the "Fitz Magic" period, Fitz had roller coaster performances. If the OL for the Bills had been bad in 2011, I wonder if Fitzpatrick would have gotten that new contract.

The Bills failed to win more than 6 games in any of the 4 seasons Woods and Levitre played together in Buffalo. Levitre signed a rich FA contract with the Titans in 2013, but was hampered by injury issues and after 2 underwhelming years was traded to the Falcons for a late round pick. In Atlanta, Levitre revived his career and along with Alex Mack was a key reason the Falcons improved their OL and nearly won the Super Bowl.

Both Wood and Levitre would qualify as home run draft picks. Would the Bills have been better off if they had taken Kenny Britt or James Laurinaitis over Wood? Would they have been better with Mike Wallace or Jared Cook instead of Levitre? Probably not, but even though they hit on both of those OL picks in 2009, the Bills still failed to turn the corner as a franchise and didn't assemble a playoff team.

The NYG won 2 Super Bowls under Tom Coughlin, with Eli Manning at QB. The first time they won in the 2007 season, they had a great OL. The Giants had one of the best rushing attacks in the league that year. The second time they won was in the 2011 season. That year, the NYG were only 9-7 during the regular season. They had a bad OL, only ranking 31st. By that point, the core of the OL was getting older and it was time for the Giants to start developing younger replacements.

In the first round of the 2013 draft, the Giants picked Justin Pugh at 19th overall. This was earlier than he was expected to be selected. Pugh played well as a rookie, quieting some of the critics who said he was a draft reach. The OL, however, only ranked 28th in the NFL.

In 2014, the NYG drafted OBJ in the 1st round and Weston Richburg in the 2nd round. Richurg struggled his rookie season and the NYG had the 20th ranked OL.

Richburg played great his 2nd year in the NFL. The Giants picked Ereck Flowers with the 9th overall selection and he was a disaster as a rookie, grading as the worst OT in the NFL. The NYG were tied for the 20th best OL.

The NYG invested high picks in their OL. They didn't ignore the position group. Those high picks, however, did not translate into long term improvement of their OL performance. After being a bust at LT, Flowers developed into a solid starting guard for a division rival of the NYG, Washington. Pugh has struggled to stay healthy and went to Arizona. The Giants soured on Richburg and allowed him to leave in FA.

The NYG had the 30th ranked OL in 2021. Even in recent years, the Giants spent big money on Nate Solder, investing additional high picks in Will Hernandez and Andrew Thomas, but their OL problems persist. Would Daniel Jones perform better if he had a better OL?

Background

Name: Dylan Parham

School: Memphis

Age: Turns 23 in August. Redshirt Senior.

Senior Bowl measurements: 6'2'' tall, 313 pounds, 33 1/2'' arms, 10 1/4'' hands, 80 3/8'' wingspan

Combine measurements: 6'3'' tall, 311 pounds, 33 1/8'' arms, 10 1/4'' hands

Was listed by Memphis as 6'3'' tall and 285 pounds.

Combine testing: 4.93 sec (40 time), 1.74 sec (unofficial 10 yard split), 26.5'' vert jump, 9' broad jump, 4.7 sec (shuttle), 7.78 sec (3 cone)

In high school, participated in USATF National Junior Olympic Championship in the triple jump. Was a LB in HS, then moved to blocking TE his final season in HS. Played basketball and was sprinter and jumper in track.

His redshirt season at Memphis, moved from TE to OL. Received variety of academic honors his first couple of years in college. Started 14 games at LG in 2018 as redshirt freshman. Started 14 games at LG on 2019. Made 11 starts at RT in 2020. PFF gave him 90.6 grade that year and entering the 2021 season named him as easily the best Group of Five OL draft prospect, saying he projected as a guard for an outsize zone scheme pro team.

In 2021 he made 11 starts at RG, allowing zero sacks and only 2 QB hits. PFF grade of 78.8.

ESPN 96th ranked overall prospect, the 5th ranked G

CBSSports 108th overall (late 3rd to early 4th round)

PFF 68th overall (late 2nd to early 3rd)

PFN (Tony Pauline 836th overall), (Ian Cummings 176th overall, late 5th, 8th best G), (Oliver Hodgkinson 204th overall, 6th round, 10th best G)

Draftcountdown (Shane Hallam 151st, 5th rd), (Brian Borsarge 98th, late 3rd to 4th), (Consensus 125th, 4th rd)

Drafttek 128th overall, 4th rd, 4th center

TDN player rankings 80th overall (3rd rd). Joe Marino said Parham is a technician in the run game, good mirror in pass pro, nimble feet, extremely flexible, needs to get stronger and bulk up, no snaps taken as a center.

I went through a few of the various draft boards on the Fanspeak mock draft sim and they range from having Parham as a late 3rd round prospect to being in the late 6th round area.

Lance Zierlein 6.16 draft grade. A prospect from the 2021 draft with a similar grade from LZ is Ben Cleveland, who as a late 3rd round pick (94th overall) by the Ravens. Cleveland started 4 games as a rookie, had a 55.8 grade and ranked 61st out of 82 qualifying NFL guards.

LZ says he has big hands, a broad chest, unlocks his hips into blocks, processes and makes adjustments on the go, recovers well, has awareness and an adequate anchor. For negatives, he says Parham is below standard size requirements for an NFL guard, below average mirror, struggles against quickness, labored as pull blocker, some holes in pass protection.

Multiple draft experts were impressed with his performance run and pass blocking during the Senior Bowl practices. Dane Brugler raved about him, complimenting Parham for his knee bend, core strength and balance on pass blocks. Bleacher Report gave him a 3rd round grade and suggested that he might be drafted even earlier.

Even Tony Pauline, the expert who had Parham ranked so low, said Parham had a great weak, though he wasn't as effusive in his praise compared to the other experts. Pauline said Parham had impressive grip strength, natural leverage, proportional length, flexibility and the ability to anchor. He liked his technique and said he was built for zone blocking scheme teams. Nevertheless, Pauline didn't sound like he was entirely sold, because he said that Parham got pushed backwards and handled easily at times by bigger DTs, expressing concern about Parham's smaller frame.

Strengths

Well proportioned build. Does not have excess bad weight. Mass in lower body, muscle in legs give him superior leverage in engagements and naturally lower center of gravity to drop anchor and maintain balance. Solid arm length relative to his shorter height.

Knee bender, sinks hips into stance, wide feet and great balance. Has very solid base in pass protection, difficult to knock off balance or pull to the ground. Skilled at stuffing bull rushes. Traits to be an excellent pass blocker. Slides feet laterally to mirror while staying balanced, maintains low center of gravity.

Takes short steps into blocks. Uses leverage to dig in and make effective seal blocks on zone runs.

Set good angle on seal block against DT, then widened running lane by driving DT sideways with core power and lower leg drive. Runs legs through run play blocks.

Outstanding combo block where he bends his knees and locks up the LB at the 2nd level.

Aggressively finishes some of his blocks. Runs feet through 2nd level block against LB. Delivered aggressive shove to LB. Helping his RT on pass block, he destroyed the DE, knocking him violently to the turf.

Good awareness to LB blitzes and picks them up. Made nice reaction and recovery on pass block.

Background as a TE and being such a good jumper in track reflects better than average athletic traits compared with other OL prospects.

Starting experience at 3 different OL positions, including on both the right and the left side of the line.

Interviews show solid understanding of football fundamentals, earned academic recognition in college. Intelligently stayed near the LOS instead of drifting upfield and possibly getting an ineligible downfield penalty.

Weaknesses

Struggles with some wide zone run blocks. Wide zone, RG as backside blocker overcommits as DT flows laterally, resulting in his helmet being on the wrong side to seal. There was a play by Saffold that I broke down once exactly like this where Saffold does an outstanding job recovering, repositioning his hands, turning his hips and getting his shoulder into the chest of the defender so that he can regain leverage. If you can't do this, an alternative is to just try to drive the DT down the LOS to open up a cutback lane. Parham fails to do either, resulting in the DT penetrating into the backfield and getting a TFL on the RB.

Lethargic out of his stance on backside block on wide zone run, then not quick enough to adjust to backdoor attempt by the defender.

Issues also apply when he is the playside G on wide zone running plays. Trying to block DE at POA, the 2 players initially eyeball each other, sizing each other up. The DE shoots his hands first and wins the gap, forcing the RB to cut back, then he disengages from Parham and tackles the RB. Bad block. Zero movement generated on double team block on playside of outside zone run.

Not athletic enough to excel as blocker flowing laterally. Designed rollout by the QB with the OL flowing in the same direction. The NT initially steps in the wrong direction, which should give Parham the advantage. RG tries to grab the outside shoulder of the NT and seal, but he can't get his hips around to control the block. The NT disengages and is able to pursue down the LOS. What should be a relatively easy and straightforward block for the RG ends up not being a very impressive rep.

Poor as a pull blocker. No burst getting out of stance. Brief delay in shifting his body weight and pivot his hips around. Also no burst once in open space to cut off defenders. When he's pulling, it looks like the other players on the field are moving at a faster speed and he can't keep up. Slow on both long and short pulls. Does not deliver thump or power into pull blocks when he strikes the defender. As puller got stuffed by defender setting the edge.

Does not find smart blocking angles on pull blocks.

Lacks aggression and physicality necessary in the NFL. Makes too many soft blocks. No power in short yardage situations. Not a factor in 3rd and 4th and 1 runs. Gets stacked and shed at the LOS on power runs. Unable to generate movement or open up holes. Can't generate any push on solo blocks. Issues sustaining blocks, as DTs with superior size and length are able to disengage at the LOS fairly easily and get involved in the action. Absorbs hits instead of delivering them on wide zone run play blocks, resulting in him getting driven backwards. Got stacked and shed on GL run.

Poor as helper in pass protection. Slow scanning with his eyes and turning his head. Looks at the wrong defender when scanning. Very average in awareness in pass pro. Over and over again, he doesn't maintain proper depth in relation to the other OL to be in position to help them on pass blocks.

Zone blitz play by defense, the DE fakes a pass rush, then drops into coverage. Parham as the RG should immediately help the C, but he didn't get enough depth and didn't scan quickly, so by the time he realizes that the C needs help, his hips are not at a good angle, resulting in a very weak help block.

Initially tries to help the C. Eyes stuck on LB dropping into coverage when he should be immediately looking out to his RT as he's engaging with the C. Weak, patty cake block helping C, then late turning his head to check on RT.

3 man pass rush. DL crosses his face and gets picked up by the RT. Parham's eyes get stuck on the LB dropping into zone coverage and he doesn't realize that the NT immediately beat the C. By the time the RG realizes what is happening, he's late, plus he doesn't have enough depth to be in position to recover, resulting in the NT splitting the RG and C cleanly and getting to the QB. This should not happen. That's a bad play by the OL. Yes, it is the fault of the C for getting beat, but the RG needs to be there to back him up.

Against basic twists, Parham multiple times was very late switching over to the 2nd defender. Not aware, late reaction to 3 man loop. Another slow reaction to 3 man loop, then insufficient lateral quickness to recover, resulting in RG being spectator as QB gets pressured.

Long 3rd down pass. CB is blitzing off the edge. Parham is late to scan and see it, allowing the CB to run right past him and sack the QB.

LB tips off A gap blitz super early. This typically doesn't happen in the NFL, where defenses are better at holding their water and maintaining disguise until after the snap. On this play, the RG should know what is coming and has the advantage, but even with this head start, Parham is slow to slide over with his feet to close the A gap. He makes the block, but does not demonstrate "NFL traits" in how he does it, because a top OL prospect should make this block look effortless, easy and smooth.

Runs too slowly, limited effective range as blocker, does not add value in open space. Unable to get to proper spot on screen passes or lead the way. Tunnel screen out wide to WR, insufficient burst to get out there in time, plus it looked like he tries to block the less dangerous S instead of understanding he should adjust to the LB instead. Doesn't run fast enough to effectively lead the way for RB on screens.

Not smooth climbing to 2nd level with lateral steps.

Hands sometimes land outside the frame of the defender and either latch on wide or around the back of the jersey. When this happens, he isn't quick to reposition them or let go, and in the NFL when the defender tries to pull away this can lead to holding penalties.

Late with initial punch in pass pro causes him to catch bull rushes on some plays. Against his level of competition, Parham did an excellent job settling down and stopping these bull rushes, but I'm concerned about what will happen in the NFL if he doesn't fix this issue. Some NFL DTs are so powerful, if you catch them, they will take you for a ride an drive you back into the lap of the QB. Average arm length and slow hands can be a bad combination for an interior NFL offensive lineman. Got shoved backwards by DE on twist.

Pitched forward, bending at waist as DE swipes away punch, surrendering QB pressure. Average change of direction ability trying to mirror on pass blocks. Beaten by swim move. Could struggle against quickness in NFL as pass blocker.

Mediocre combo blocker. Aiming point is too high on combo blocks, does not climb smoothly or explode to 2nd level. Does not demonstrate agility or anticipation reading the defenders to make higher degree of difficulty combo blocks that are more common at the pro level compared to college. Super soft combo block on DT, stays too long on DT when he should climb earlier to the LB, then allows the LB to defeat block and help tackle RB. Repeatedly shed by LBs at 2nd level.

Had false start on critical 3rd&5 play late in the 4th quarter in close game with his team on the edge of FG range.

His effective arm length is shorter than his measured arm length, because he's not a skilled hand fighter and he's not elite with his hand placements, timing or hand eye coordination.

Looks lost in scramble situations or adjusting his blocking assignment in open space. He gets caught in no man's land and ends up blocking nobody at 2nd level when he doesn't correctly read who to block. Too slow to run and cut off the deep guy and too slow reacting and realizing that he could have blocked the closer defender. Stands in one spot and doesn't react well or with anticipation when QB moves around, so defenders will be flying by around him and he doesn't block any of them.

Very average overall awareness. Ran right by unblocked defender, not adjusting his blocking assignment.

Limited lateral quickness to recover on pass blocks.

Does not follow up on plays in case there is a fumble or the RB escapes the tackle and reverses field.

Reported athleticism is overrated to my eye. Combine testing in important events were Day 3 pick results, not consistent with a Day 2 interior OL prospect. Does not look fast or agile in games and if that was at a lower weight, is he going to be any quicker playing at a heavier weight?

Played in spread system offense with all shotgun snaps, QB not under center. No experience in games as center, only played G and T in college, ability to snap reliably is unknown.

Pro Comparison and Grade

Brian Allen (4th round 2018, Rams, Michigan State) and Trey Hopkins (UDFA 2014, Bengals, Texas), Late round grade.

Allen and Hopkins were the starting centers in the Super Bowl.

Apart from the 40 times, the testing numbers for Parham, Allen and Hopkins are all very similar identical. Hopkins was a PS player early in his career, eventually becoming the starting center in 2019. That season, he was the highest graded starter on a terrible OL that ranked 30th in the NFL. He performed well enough that the team signed him to a new deal with about a $7 million salary.

If we compare Parham's combine weight of 311 to Allen's current listed playing weight of 303, it is relatively close, especially since Parham is taller than Allen. Hopkins is listed by the Bengals at 6'3'' tall and 316 pounds.

There is an adage that towards the end of the draft, as long as an offensive linemen shows that he can stay on his feet in games, he merits consideration to be drafted. Parham certain qualifies, because he plays with a great base and holds up pretty well against power, so he's not constantly being knocked or thrown to the ground. A player like this has a shot at playing in the NFL, even if it is just to be a swing backup who can play at multiple spots.

Whether Parham projects to be an eventual starter in the NFL and merits being taken early depends on how you feel about a players like Brian Allen and Hopkins. Despite his strong PFF grade in 2021, I'm not the biggest fan of Allen. He helped the Rams win the SB, but just asking the question, if there was an exact clone of Brian Allen in the 2022 draft, would you draft that center and if so, with which pick?

If you like Allen and consider him to be a solid starting center, then Parham deserves consideration to be drafted at least as high, if not earlier than Allen was taken. Parham is slightly bigger than Allen and has at least as much athleticism, with more position flexibility.

My counterargument is that teams can find centers in the late rounds that are just as good as Allen. Bradley Bozeman was a late 6th round pick by the Ravens in the same draft class as Brian Allen. Bozeman has started for the Ravens the last 3 seasons. Last year, Allen finished the season with a 74.8 PFF grade (his grade dropped due to the playoff games) ranking 10th out of 39 centers, while Bozeman had almost an identical overall grade as the 11th ranked center, at 73.3.

It is tough to compare Allen and Bozeman head to head, because the Ravens and Rams have very different offensive schemes, but in terms of their overall production and value to their respective squads, is there any difference between Allen and Bozeman? There is a reasonable argument that Bozeman has been the better player and has the edge. For sure, Allen hasn't been the next JC Tretter (former 4th rounder).

I don't think Parham is as good a prospect as Brian Schwenke (4th round). The Titans drafted Chance Warmack and Schwenke the same year they signed Andy Levitre in free agency. They drafted Taylor Lewan in the 1st round the following year. That season, the Titans had the 28th ranked OL, extremely disappointing results given the resources they put into the OL.

There was a center named Lamont Gaillard, who was a 6th round pick out of Georgia in 2019. I liked him as far as being a late round prospect. I'd put Parham and Gaillard on the same tier as prospects (LZ has similar draft grades for the 2 players). Gaillard has only been a PS level player so far, the Bengals have him on a futures contract. If they don't keep Hopkins, maybe Gaillard has a chance to make their team next season.

There is a danger to overreacting to Tutu Atwell and getting whipsawed into making a mistake with an overcorrection. If you think the Rams reached for a WR and missed out on adding a quality C last year, how does it help the situation to reach for a C and miss out on a better player (maybe even a WR) in this draft?

I would pass on Parham as a Day 2 pick for the Rams. He might be worth a look later in the draft, because in a weak center class at some point he might be the best interior OL prospect left on the board. Bottom line is to me it is overly optimistic to project Parham to be the next Andy Levitre. I think it is more reasonable to project him to have a career more along the lines of players like Brian Allen and Trey Hopkins. Which isn't the worst thing. The most recent Super Bowl proves it.

Of course, I could be all wet and Parham is going to be the next great NFL center. Is the title of this fanpost really clickbait? Or did you fall for a double cross ruse? Last year, PFF's final draft board had Creed Humphrey ranked 62nd overall, very close to Parham's ranking of 68th (and we aren't yet close to the draft). PFF ranked Quinn Meinerz higher at 51 and had multiple slot WR types, including Terrance Marshall (28), Rondale Moore (33) and Dyami Brown (45) ranked ahead of Creed.

In the actual draft, Creed was selected at slot 63, almost exactly matching his overall PFF board ranking. Marshall and Moore were both drafted ahead of him. Brown wasn't taken until pick 82.

Personally, I don't put much stock into PFF's numbers, whether it is their season grades on the college players or their draft rankings. If you trust their evaluations, however, is Parham much different than Creed Humphrey? As I noted before, PFF really likes this prospect. Maybe they know something I don't know.