While you don't see many 6-8 football players in the NFL outside of the occasional mammoth offensive tackle, Los Angeles Chargers tight end Donald Parham is doing everything he can to stick around and be an absolute nightmare in the passing game. He may end up as one of Justin Herbert's top targets in 2022.
Saying that Parham had an unconventional path to the NFL is an understatement. Parham played FCS football at Stetson, but he did so in the non-scholarship Pioneer League. Parham then had to join the Dallas Renegades of the XFL to even get noticed by an NFL that had tossed him aside.
Even as Parham enters his age-25 season, he is a bit of an enigma. Has he already peaked athletically, or can someone with a 6-8 frame and long arms figure out how to be a Harold Carmichael-esque outside weapon. Based on reviews from his teammates, Parham is well on his way to stardom.
Tight end Gerald Everett, who is likely going to get most of the TE1 reps after his season with the Seattle Seahawks, said that the gargantuan Parham is "like LeBron [James]" when playing tight end. Herbert was deadly in the red zone last year, and his performance in that area may only improve if Parham stars.
The Los Angeles Chargers are high on Donald Parham.
In two seasons, Parham has caught 30 passes for 349 yards and six touchdowns. After doubling his reception total last year, Parham has proven he can be reliable over the middle while possessing enough speed to line up as a split tight end and beat linebackers in single coverage.
The biggest issue Parham had coming out of college, outside of concerns about the low level of competition, was the lack of tremendous blocking skill. Rather than continue to have him improve in this area, LA might do well to keep him as a slot mismatch and take full advantage of his gifts as a receiver.
Daniel Popper of The Athletic reported that Parham was having a "great camp", further solidifying the notion that he will be an important part of Herbert's support system this year. When you're that tall and that fast (4.68 40-yard dash at his pro day), you're bound to dominate undrafted rookies.
Parham may need to defer to the veteran Everett, but he continued to see an uptick in snaps over the last few seasons despite names like Jared Cook nominally ahead of him. If his LeBron-like verticality can help him carve out a more permanent role, Joe Lombardi's quick-strike offense will be even more potent.