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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: LB Micah Parsons

  • The Draft Network
  • December 16, 2020
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Micah Parsons projects as a dynamic impact player at the NFL level. Parsons, who elected to opt-out of the 2020 college football season, has two seasons of high-impact play on his film resume and his impact was only further affirmed as the Penn State defense fell apart without him on the field for the 2020 season. Parsons, who was a prized recruit as a pass rusher coming out of high school, is still ironing out some of the finer points of play processing on the second level, but his freakish combination of size and explosiveness allow him to explode and drive into gaps when he sees the play develop. As a result, he's a persistent winner of beating ball carriers and blockers to the spot between the tackles. Parsons is an impact player on third downs, which significantly boosts his value to pro teams and masks some of his inexperience transitioning to stack linebacker. He's a dynamic blitzer and has the versatility to rush against offensive linemen and claim victories to get home to the quarterback. Parsons has illustrated an incredible level of pure instinct for the game thus far and his ability to navigate the line of scrimmage and rip at the football to create turnovers is best accentuated in an aggressive front defense that will task him with playing forward early in downs and not ask him to make flat-footed reads before scraping and flowing to the ball.

Ideal Role: Long-term starting MIKE Linebacker (Could benefit from playing stacked OLB early in career)

Scheme Fit: Multiple Front, Blitz Heavy, Attack Defense

Film Evaluation

Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Iowa (2019), Michigan (2019), Michigan State (2019), Ohio State (2019), Minnesota (2019), Memphis (2019)

Best Game Studied: Memphis (2019)

Worst Game Studied: Iowa (2019)

Tackling: Parsons' tackle radius and range as a second-level defender is top-shelf stuff. His closing burst and suddenness to attack the football is a special dynamic that would instantaneously make any defender better in the run game. He's a physical, explosive hitter who makes a conscious effort to rip at the football and attempt to pull the ball out as opportunities present themselves (six career forced fumbles). There are times when Parsons can be a little too wild prior to first contact where you'd love to see him settle and square up his collisions, but this is a natural byproduct of being so explosive and getting on top of plays quickly. It will require continued fine-tuning but should be a fixable flaw.

Football IQ: Just two years of experience playing stacked after playing as a defensive end and yet you'll see him jumping into gaps to attack based on feel and successfully track down explosive negative plays. He'll need to learn how close he can fly to the sun with his aggressiveness at the pro level and as a result may endure some hard knocks early in his career until he finds the proper way to walk that tightrope of playmaking and discipline.

Competitive Toughness: Incredible high-motor player who has completely taken over ball games in stretches, especially in 2019 (Michigan, Minnesota, Memphis). Parsons has a stout frame and is pro-ready from a strength and conditioning perspective. He'll thud opposing ball carriers, blockers, and quarterbacks with power and offers clean finishes in head-on collisions thanks to his functional strength and power. Parsons' range in the run game is sideline to sideline and he'll successfully play through the punch of offensive linemen when shooting gaps to work uncovered into the backfield.

Pass Coverage Ability: This is still a fairly new dynamic to Parsons' game and he has not been given a great deal of turn-and-run coverage opportunities despite a physical profile that would indicate that he's capable of locking down opposing tight ends. There will be some required patience as a result, and Parsons may benefit from playing in an Anthony Barr-type role early on to get him onto the field as a rookie before slowly adding more responsibilities in coverage on his plate. But with his blitz abilities, he's a three-down threat from Day 1.

Run Defending: Leaving Parsons unaccounted for on the backside of plays is a risky proposition, as he has the explosive range to close down and crash the party from behind if he's given a free run. His ability on outside runs to dip across the face of blockers in space (both in climbing situations on the B-level and when shooting gaps on outside zone) really shouldn't work as well or as consistently as it does, but that's the caliber of athlete and hitter we're talking about here. Parsons is a vacuum in pursuit and his plays made on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage make him a massive weapon for a defense.

Block Deconstruction: Parsons has shown the ability to win with either finesse or power when looking to play through contact. Linemen who climb to the second level often come up empty-handed when looking to land blocks and he'll dip his chest and reduce surface in order to play freely and work to daylight before accelerating to the football. His exposure as a defensive end in high school comes in handy, too—Parsons shows good punch and rip to play through contact and work across the face of blockers when stringing plays out laterally.

Lateral Mobility: This is a rare athlete who not only makes tackles in pursuit all over the field but he makes so many of them in close proximity to the line of scrimmage. Parsons isn't just a long-speed threat, either. His short-area explosiveness and his ability to build speed and cover ground in short spaces is a large part of beating blockers; especially when head up and dipping out of the path of heavy-footed linemen. Very few running backs across the league will have success beating him to the corner at the pro game.

Flexibility: Parsons is a fluid, dynamic athlete with ample body control in all planes of motion—this isn't a straight-ahead jackhammer, nor is he a liability when tasked with getting depth out of the line of scrimmage to fall off into zone coverages. Parsons has shown the ability to peel off his initial charge at sharp angles and is typically proficient with his movement skills in space as a result. He's got dynamic hips and that allows him to produce explosive changes of direction at steep angles. His dynamic base is the primary catalyst here and it shows both in tracing ball carriers and when looking to crash through a gap as a blitzer and win at the apex of the corner.

Leadership: Parsons served as the heartbeat of a talented Lions defense in 2019 and the unit looked like a shell of itself a year later with Parsons opting out for the 2020 season. Parsons wasn't an overly vocal or over the top personality on the field, but his play was a "lead by example" catalyst for Penn State and one would expect the same in the NFL given his rare athletic prowess and the subsequent playmaking ability he's going to bring to the table that others simply cannot.

Versatility: Parsons can bring you a slew of qualities to the field of play and his ceiling is really undetermined when you consider his overall lack of playing off-ball and the advancements his pass-rush prowess can already claim. I wouldn't endorse Parsons taking reps on special teams considering his ceiling as a hybrid weapon on defense. He has no shortage of potential contributions as a three-down linebacker and if you're able to really showcase his coverage ability in man-to-man, you're talking about one of the best linebackers in football over a three-year projection.

Prospect Comparison: Myles Jack (2016 NFL Draft, Jacksonville Jaguars)

Scout Grades

TDN Consensus: 87.75 / 100

Kyle Crabbs: 87.50/100

Joe Marino: 87.50/100

Jordan Reid: 87.00/100

Drae Harris: 89.00/100

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