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The pros and cons of the Cowboys drafting linebacker Micah Parsons

After the shock wears off, just how do we evaluate the Cowboys first-round pick?

NFL: NFL Draft Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

It’s pretty safe to say that most Cowboys fans did not anticipate the team selecting Micah Parsons in the first round. The Cowboys management team didn’t feel that way based on what they said after the first round was over, but media and fans alike had constructed multiple scenarios that didn’t involve Parsons. From choosing a top corner, to taking an offensive lineman, to trading back and picking up a defensive back, none of the pre-draft scenarios really involved a linebacker or Parsons.

But here we stand one day after round one, and the Cowboys have selected Micah Parsons. So let’s break down the pick by its pros and cons.

Pros

Best defensive player

This is the one the Cowboys are really hanging their hat on. It wasn’t universal, but a broad consensus of analysts had Parsons as the best defensive player in this draft. The Cowboys brass said they had Parsons graded as the top defensive player ahead of both corners. If you want your football team to somewhat stick to the “best player available” theory, and given the Cowboys desperate need for an improved defense, then this seems like a reasonable pick.

Current linebacker corps is problematic

There have been many complaints about the play of Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch over the last few years. It’s not like people who watched the Cowboys closely were convinced they had the two starting linebackers they really needed. With the retirement of Sean Lee and the departure of Joe Thomas, the depth was also an issue. There was nothing settled in Dallas at linebacker heading into the draft; the fact that they haven’t picked up LVE’s fifth-year option yet attests to that.

Cowboys run defense is a disaster

The ease with which teams ran on the Cowboys defense last year was astounding. That was something that couldn’t continue. Parsons racked up tackles at Penn State and has true sideline-to-sideline speed.

Can help the pass rush

Parsons is an A+ pass rusher as a linebacker. Penn State really took advantage of that in the 2019 season and you can bet the Cowboys will to. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Parsons as an on-the-ball linebacker in some formations.

Picked up a Top 100 pick

This isn’t directly related to Parsons’ ability, but his acquisition came with the added bonus of a Top 100 pick, #84 to be precise.

Cons

Off-ball linebacker

There are some prime, money positions in football that are considered worthy of very high picks. An off-ball linebacker is not one of them. The Cowboys now have a linebacking corps of two first-round picks and a second-round pick. That might be what some term as “over-drafting” a position.

Limited experience at linebacker

Parsons has two years of real experience at linebacker at a high level. He opted-out of 2020, and it will be a challenge to pick up all the nuances needed to be an effective linebacker at the NFL level. There have been many supreme athletes who didn’t master the other side of the game at the pro level. He has to be able to read and diagnose plays at a high level.

Pass coverage needs to be proved

There are some questions about Parsons in pass coverage in terms of reading receivers and not biting on play fakes. He has also been labeled as a guy who can’t grab interceptions on very catchable passes. To be a true three-down guy, he will need to prove this aspect of his game.

Cornerback still a major issue

While Parsons is likely to improve one aspect of the Cowboys defense, there is still a major hole at cornerback. The Cowboys will now have to look at the second-tier of corners in the draft, and/or possibly sign a veteran free agent.

Character/off-field issues

This happens a lot with draft picks, incidents or whispers follow them into the draft. These are young men who mature at different speeds. The Cowboys obviously feel good about this aspect, but it will still be a concern until Parsons proves there is nothing to them.