All offseason, we sit here and digest league wide rankings as it helps to pass the time, and help us get one day closer to actual football. However, depending how you view them, some rankings seem to catch a little more of the eye, especially when you are considering the source.
That brings us to ESPN and their latest ranking of the leagues best linebackers. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN paneled 50 league executives, scouts, and coaches to compile the comprehensive list en route to finding the ten best linebackers in the NFL. The list confirms what many of us already believe to be true, and we now know for certain that league wide Micah Parsons play is respected and feared.
Highest ranking: 1 | Lowest ranking: 10
Age: 23 | Last year’s ranking: Unranked (rookie)
Parsons is the best singular talent at the position. “He’s a one-percenter,” an AFC scout said.
Parsons’ positional flexibility as a rookie created challenges in the voting. He emerged as one of the NFL’s elite defensive players, ripping through 13 sacks as a part-time pass-rusher. He added 64 tackles and three forced fumbles and had a stellar 89.8 Pro Football Focus grade. That was all while playing at least 115 snaps at four different positions: left outside linebacker, left inside linebacker, right outside linebacker and right inside linebacker.
“I don’t see Micah as an off-the-ball LB at all,” an NFL coordinator said. “He’s really a 3-4 OLB that DQ (Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn) is scheming into situational opportunities.”
Here’s why Parsons fell into this category: The Cowboys still expect to split his snaps between rushing from the line of scrimmage and playing off the ball as a traditional linebacker.
Parsons likely will be in the edge rusher rankings eventually. His pass rush win rate (29.2%) would have ranked No. 1 in the league among edge rushers if he had played the snaps to qualify. His ability there will help the Cowboys deal with Randy Gregory leaving for Denver in free agency.
“If Dallas does anything but let him rush, they are crazy,” an NFC exec said.
Added an AFC executive: “Regardless, he’s the best playmaker on this list. Incredible talent. The speed is so good that they are smart to use him all over.”
In this ranking, Parsons ended up only behind Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts. Parsons’ impact as a rookie was felt league wide and he is viewed among the leagues decision-makers as one of the brightest young stars, not only at his position but league wide. The respect and admiration is abundantly clear and the paneled speakers even mentioned that Parsons impact is so great because of his ability to do multiple things and would be considered on the same list for the defensive ends as well if that was where he spent most of his time.
The Cowboys and the league will surely be looking for a great second act in year two, and if he is able to deliver on that, he may be ranked one spot higher this time next year.