2021 NFL Draft Profile: Micah Parsons

Micah Parsons NFL Draft

Micah Parsons NFL Draft Overview

Position: Middle Linebacker
Height: 6’-3”
Weight: 244 pounds
School: Penn State

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2021 NFL Draft: Micah Parsons Player Profile

Micah Parsons chose to sit out the 2020 College season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. His decision means scouts only have the tape from Parsons’ 2018 and 2019 true freshman and sophomore campaigns to evaluate his potential for the pro level. However, the tape is excellent, making Parsons confident enough to turn pro, forgoing his final two years of eligibility to play at the college level. 

A five-star recruit as a defensive end in high school, Parsons was ranked seventh overall in his recruiting class by ESPN. He committed to Penn State in December 2017, where coach James Franklin told Parsons he would try out as a middle linebacker with the Nittany Lions. Parsons only started one game as a true freshman, but still led the team in tackles (82). The first-ever true freshman to lead the team in tackles as a true freshman.

In his sophomore season, Parsons was a consensus All-American and earned Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year for 2019. He made 109 total tackles, picked up five sacks, and four forced fumbles in 2019. Parsons capped his outstanding sophomore campaign by winning Defensive MVP in the 2019 Cotton Bowl. He recorded 14 tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles in a 53-39 win over Memphis. 

Strengths

  • Sideline-to-sideline speed;
  • Elite closing speed to make the tackle – Parsons eats up yards in space; 
  • Disruptive in the run game and ability to be explosive on blitzes;
  • Versatile linebacker – fits into 4-3 and 3-4 schemes;
  • Good instincts – trusts his eyes to dictate the play but also has good read and react skills – particularly in zone coverage;
  • A hard hitter in the tackle – Six forced fumbles in two seasons;
  • Ideal size and speed for modern NFL middle linebackers.

Weaknesses

  • Potential to be overly aggressive; 
  • Multiple examples in college misdiagnosing misdirection plays;
  • Has a tendency to bite hard on the run when in coverage;
  • Man coverage instincts at the next level may need some work;
  • Hasn’t played since 2019.

NFL Comparison: Dont’a Hightower 

Hightower was a first-round pick in 2012 with great size for the position. Parsons has a similar size but looks quicker in space than Hightower who has enjoyed a successful career with the New England Patriots.

Teams With Need at Position: Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders

Projection: Top 15 Pick

Bottom Line on Micah Parsons

Parsons is a tall rangy middle linebacker with ideal NFL size. He runs sideline to sideline with above-average speed for a middle linebacker. The ability to run at his size will have scouts drooling over the possibilities with Parsons in an NFL defense. He has the speed to catch running backs from behind on toss plays and sweeps, elite closing speed when in range of his target, and the size to punish offensive players in the tackle. 

The Penn State product may need coaching up in man coverage but his agility and closing speed could make up for any early missteps he makes as a rookie. He also showed flashes of good instincts in zone coverage. Particularly in the aforementioned Cotton Bowl where he read the eyes of the Memphis quarterback expertly on several occasions that could have resulted in interceptions. 

Parsons’ versatility is also a major positive for defensive coordinators salivating at the prospect of moving the linebacker around like a chess piece. He has strong enough instincts  to work on the inside of a 3-4 scheme but can also fill a hole as a Mike or a Will linebacker in a 4-3. He has the potential to succeed at the next level either way. 

He’s the best linebacker in the 2021 Draft class and will be drafted accordingly. He should crack the top 10 barring an early run on quarterbacks or another position that could push Parsons down on draft night. However, there is no scenario where Parsons will drop outside the top 15. 

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