It’s been two weeks since the NFL Draft kicked off and the Dallas Cowboys selected linebacker Micah Parsons with the 12th overall pick. At the time, the Cowboys fanbase was decidedly mixed in their reactions to the selection. Much of the problem wasn’t with the player himself and his athletic abilities. but it was more with the position he plays, and the players that he was not. Mainly Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn.
Much of the Cowboys fanbase had settled on one of the two cornerbacks as their pick, and the hope was that one of them would survive to the tenth pick. Had that happened, it would have been interesting to see what they Cowboys would have done. At the post-draft press conference, Stephen Jones somewhat addressed that situation by noting that Parsons was rated higher on their board than Surtain or Horn, but he also acknowledged the need they had at corner entering the draft.
In an article from ESPN with quotes from insiders on the draft, they note that Parsons was considered by many to be the best defensive player in the draft.
Many pegged a cornerback for Dallas in the first round, but the belief among some Cowboys brass is linebacker Micah Parsons was the best overall defensive player. That weighed heavily on Dallas regardless of where Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II fell, as the team weighed need vs. upside. Dallas never was eager to move up, and Horn and Surtain were off the board at picks Nos. 8 and 9 anyway.
”I know the Kyle Pitts stuff was out there with him, but I think they were going defense the whole time,” said an AFC exec of the tight end drafted No. 4 overall by Atlanta. “And people tried to knock Parsons late in the process, but I was like, ‘Name me a better defensive player in this draft than him!’”
If the Cowboys were determined to walk away with a defensive player with their first pick, barring something like Kyle Pitts falling to them, then the consensus best player available on defense, even before Horn or Surtain were taken, would have been Parsons. By most scouting services, he was the best defensive player in the draft.
But then there is that other side of the draft - using your top resources on the premier positions like cornerback, quarterback, wide receiver, left tackle, and pass rusher. Off-ball linebacker, much like running back, has fallen down the pecking order.
In this case, the Cowboys were left in a position to either switch over to offense and take a player like Rashawn Slater, who may or may not have started this year, or go with the best defensive talent in the draft.
This is where Dan Quinn probably came into the equation. If there is one thing that can be seen from the Cowboys moves on defense this offseason is they are not going to be run on like they were last year.
Quinn is remaking this defense, and one priority is to stop the run. Early on they brought in Brent Urban, a versatile defensive lineman who specializes in disrupting the run. They also signed Tarrell Basham, who is primarily a pass rusher but has the size to hold the point of attack on the edge. They drafted Chauncey Golston who is a run-stopping specialist, and Osa Odighizuwa who is pretty good run-disruptor, and finally the mountain that is Quinton Bohannon. With Parsons in the fold, the Cowboys are giving all kind of reinforcements to the middle of the defense. With DeMarcus Lawrence also available, who plays the run equally as well as the pass, the Cowboys plan to shut down the run. Parsons will play a big role in that, and he can also run sideline-to-sideline.
The Cowboys didn’t ignore their pass defense with both Jabril Cox and Keanu Neal expected to cover running backs and tight ends in passing situations. They also added three cornerbacks in the draft, one with safety flex, and brought in two safeties through free agency. They didn’t exactly ignore the pass coverage, but they seemed to be very concerned with how badly teams ran on them last season.
Parsons should help with that. But he is also a very good pass rusher. Quinn likely has plans to use Parsons in a variety of roles. In some alignments, he could be playing the traditional off-ball linebacker. In other alignments, he could be on the line of scrimmage playing a hybrid linebacker/designated pass rusher role. Quinn could also use him on blitzes from a traditional linebacker spot. It’s likely Parsons will be counted on for far more than just holding down the middle of the defense against the run.
So two weeks later, as we have learned more about Parsons, and more about how Quinn might utilize him, perspectives might have changed. Has yours?