As we approach draft season there’s one common theme with the the Cowboys and a potential top five draft pick. Outside of the quarterbacks (Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Zach Wilson), and Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, there’s not much premium value inside those top five to seven picks.
That presents a real problem for the Cowboys, who “shouldn’t” be needing a quarterback, and drafting yet another offensive lineman in round one would be a poor allocation of resources with Tyron Smith and La’el Collins slated to return in 2021.
The one argument to be had on the defensive side of the ball inside the top five to eight is Penn State’s linebacker Micah Parsons. Parsons, a 6-foot-2, 245-lb do it all defender out of Penn State is known for his freakish athleticism, versatility, and elite traits at the linebacker position.
The Cowboys have gotten poor return on investment with Jaylon Smith, who could be staring down a possible release in the near future, and have yet to get consistent results from 2018 first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch who has struggled to stay healthy in his young career. While Parsons has the ability to slide-in and be the teams best linebacker from day one, he can do much more than play off-the-ball linebacker - which makes his value worth considering at the top of the first round. In his two seasons at Penn State, Parsons has registered 191 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, five passes defended, and six forced fumbles. Coming out of high school, Parsons was a primary edge rusher, and his ability to rush the passer from the linebacker position shows just that. Parsons has had success as a blitzer at Penn State, and could very well be graded out as an EDGE in this class by some NFL teams.
Watched quite a few games of PSU LB Micah Parsons today.— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) May 24, 2020
Built off of an impressive true freshman season to a fantastic sophomore campaign
Has everything you want in a modern LB - tremendous play speed, IQ and a legitimate weapon as a blitzer pic.twitter.com/GTrIA3c7Zs
From a true linebacker position, Parsons relies on his athleticism and instincts to make plays coming downhill and sideline-to-sideline. The combination of Parsons’ size, athleticism, and instincts are rare for such a young player, but it’s one of the reasons he’s considered one of the best defensive players in this 2021 draft.
#PSU LB Micah Parsons (No. 11) might have had the best game from a linebacker that I've ever seen in CFB.— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) November 13, 2020
Here are several plays from his dominant performance against Memphis: pic.twitter.com/tk6KdG6VJ1
The one area Parsons isn’t overly dynamic in is his coverage abilities, but they are by no means poor. Parsons is a quality coverage linebacker, and has shown the ability to cover running backs, tight ends, and uses his athleticism and instincts in man and zone coverage to defend the pass at a high level as well. When drafting a linebacker inside the top 10, you want them to have an impact on the passing game as much as possible, with how pass-heavy the NFL is going nowadays, while Parsons can continue to develop in his coverage abilities, what he can bring on day one as a blitzer makes up for the lack of dynamic coverage skills.
The Cowboys defense needs the same focus that the Cowboys offense has seen over the last few years. With Vander Esch being the only first-round pick currently on the Cowboys defense, it’s time to infuse the defense with talent, and Parsons would be a great start (though we all wish there was an elite EDGE or CB in this class). Parsons elite athletic traits brings a speed dynamic to this defense that it’s lacked for some time. Pairing his athletic traits with his ability to rush the passer, cover the entire field, and impact the game in multiple ways makes him a very intriguing option for the Cowboys at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft.