While Dallas Cowboys fans are surely bitter about the way the 2021 season ended, there is one thing about last year that is bound to please. That is the selection of Micah Parsons 12th overall in the 2021 draft. It will always be funny to think back to how the Cowboys took Parsons as some sort of ‘consolation prize’ after coveting Patrick Surtain or Jaycee Horn heading into that draft.
The Cowboys hit on an extraordinary talent that had a rookie season like few other defenders before him. Comparisons to the great Lawrence Taylor were even being thrown around. Premature? Sure, but it seems almost inevitable that Parsons will turn out to be a rare talent, even among the studs of the NFL.
His play was so captivating that he is being mentioned as a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. That’s remarkable for a rookie. He likely won’t win that as a couple of candidates, mainly T.J. Watt, were phenomenal. But to even be considered is a massive compliment to Parsons.
Last week Parsons was named to the AP All-Pro team which is a very prestigious award among professional football players. While we wait for his coronation as the Defensive Rookie of the Year, here are some organizations already giving him trophies as the top rookie.
Stats: 84 tackles, 13 sacks, 3 forced fumbles
Drafted: No. 12 overall
Parsons is enormously disruptive with consistent efficiency in the pass rush. He was one of six players in the league with at least 13 sacks — 10.5 of which came after Week 8 — and was just 1.5 sacks from Jevon Kearse’s rookie record. Plus, Parsons was reliable in coverage and a point-of-attack defender in the run game, with the range to chase down ball carriers even when the play was designed to run away from him. Few, if any, defensive players in the NFL showed consistent excellence across such an expansive job description, let alone a rookie.
Parsons is in the midst of one of the most impressive seasons we’ve ever seen — not just from a rookie, but from any defensive player.
The Penn State product seamlessly transitioned from the edge to off-ball linebacker countless times this season and has been dangerous at either role. The 12th overall pick recorded a 93.0 pass-rush grade, 22.4% pressure rate and a 24.8% pass-rush win rate this season — all of which are among the five best in the NFL, regardless of position. In coverage, he allowed 0.69 yards per snap and earned a 69.4 coverage grade, both of which rank 11th or higher among linebackers.
Sports Info Solutions (which is sort of like a PFF):
Micah Parsons was a no-brainer for our Defensive Rookie of the Year. He led all rookie defensive players with 68 Total Points.
Edge/Linebacker: Micah Parsons, Cowboys
A no-doubt first-team selection, runaway Defensive Rookie of the Year, and contender for Defensive Player of the Year, Parsons had a ridiculous inaugural season in the NFL as a true hybrid player.
On passing downs, he rushed just over 51% of the time and dropped into coverage 49% and was excellent at both, giving Dan Quinn as the Cowboys defensive coordinator the flexibility to leave offenses guessing.
Parsons set the Cowboys rookie record for sacks by five. He finished 10th in the NFL in total pressures, yet is the only player in the top 40 with fewer than 300 pass rushes on the season. In coverage, he was 1st in the NFL among linebackers with at least 25 targets in Passer Rating Against and total yards allowed. And he was also 3rd among all NFL defenders in tackles for loss on running plays, just behind TJ Watt and Aaron Donald.
No matter how you cut it, Parsons is in his own category in the 2021 rookie defensive class, and might already be among the NFL’s elite overall.
Sports Info Solutions also recognized another rookie, Osa Odighizuwa, among their rookies by positions rankings. He was one of two defensive tackles named with Christian Barmore, and he led Barmore in their points system 21-16.
Interior Defensive Lineman: Osa Odighizuwa, Cowboys
Odighizuwa proved to be a strong defender along the interior defensive line for Dallas, showing the ability to make plays against both the run and the pass. Against the pass, his 29 pressures ranked top 25 among all defensive tackles, and he also drew 3 holding penalties. In the run game, he finished with 35 tackles and 9 TFL with an average tackle depth of 2.1 yards.