No. 1 Linebacker, No. 8 Overall
Weight: 245 Lbs
University: Penn State
Micah Parsons was a talented child from the get go. Growing up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Parsons had committed to Penn State by his sophomore year of high school. He would later decommit to explore the rest of his options, as well as transfer to Harrisburg High School. As a junior and senior he played running back and defensive end for the Tigers. He would win Pennsylvania Offensive Player of the year as a running back. During his senior year he would rush for 1,239 yards and 27 touchdowns while managing 9 ½ sacks and an interception. This earned him Pennsylvania Defensive Player of the Year as a senior. ESPN and 247Sports both viewed Micah Parsons as the top player in Pennsylvania, as well as a five-star prospect. He garnered offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Oregon and over 20 other schools.
It wouldn’t take long for him to make an impact with the Nittany Lions. Head coach James Franklin would move Parsons to inside linebacker to maximize his athletic ability. Franklin believed he was explosive enough to cover sideline to sideline and would still be able to use him as a pass rusher on passing downs. As a true freshman he would record 82 total tackles, four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. That was the first time ever that a true freshman would lead the team in tackles. Penn State would finish with a record of 9-4, and go to the Citrus Bowl where they played No.11 Kentucky. In that game Parsons had 13 total tackles and a forced fumble.
As a sophomore Micah Parsons would take over as leader of the Nittany Lions defense. Starting in 12 of the 13 games played, he finished with 109 total tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, five sacks and four forced fumbles. That was good enough to not just be named a consensus All-American, but the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year. Their record improved to 11-2, and was awarded a bid to the Cotton Bowl vs No. 17 Memphis. The Lions dominated this game in large part to crazy performance from Parsons. He finished with 14 total tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles as Penn State beat the Tigers 53-39. Micah Parsons was rightfully awarded the Defensive MVP of the game.
Like many, Micah Parsons would end up opting out of his junior year due to COVID-19 safety concerns. He has a young son that he felt might be put at risk with him playing during the pandemic. By the time things had cleared up for Big-Ten football Micah was already “knee-deep in training on the West coast” and that made things difficult to transition back to Penn State. The 2020 season was a true rollercoaster for the Nittany Lions. After losing their first five games in a historically bad skid they would go on to win their last four.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Parsons is an athletic freak and that will allow him to play anywhere along the front seven. He is versatile enough to play inside or outside linebacker at the NFL level. He is very instinctive, which is what you would hope for in a franchise linebacker. At Penn State’s Pro Day Micah Parson clocked a 4.39 40-yard dash. Even though some of the times are skeptical this still shows you he has Devin White type speed. This comes up big not just in getting after the passer, but also in defending the run too. He takes on tackles extremely well for someone who is a freshly made linebacker.
Parsons can use his freakish size/speed combination and win strictly as a puss rusher too. I think if a team really wanted to turn Micah into an edge rusher they could have someone with as much potential as Bradley Chubb. Parsons said a lot of teams have talked about him playing sideline to sideline on first and second down, and then having him get after the quarterback on third downs.
Like mentioned earlier, Micah Parsons hasn’t played strictly linebacker for long and sometimes it shows. His aggressiveness and quick twitch thinking sometimes has caused him be inefficient but nothing to be too concerned about. He can look rather uncomfortable or lost in coverage sometimes.
You also have his off the field questions. He has had issues dating back to high school. He had to transfer due to him being accused of inciting a riot at the high school. Then when he got to Penn State he had an altercation with former Penn State safety Isaiah Humphries where Parsons poured water over Humphries and they began to fight. In Humphries lawsuit against Penn State he listed Micah Parsons name though he is not a defendant in the case.
NFL Draft Projection/NFL Player Comp
NFL Draft Projection
Linebackers rarely go as high as their talent suggests they should. Isaiah Simmons is a prime example of that after falling to the Cardinals last year. The murkiness of how some teams might view him off the field will also have him slip some too.
I have seen him all over mock drafts and as low as No. 25. I could see him landing anywhere from the Lions (7th) to the Patriots (15th). I would love to see him drafted to the Lions or the Giants; either team has a major role that he could fill. Dan Campbell is the definition of grit, and I think Micah Parsons represents what Campbell will be looking for in his defense.
NFL Player Comp
You really could play Micah Parsons wherever you’d like, and he would probably succeed at the position. Similar things were being said about Khalil Mack coming out of Buffalo. People didn’t exactly know how Mack should be used at the NFL level. He was an outside linebacker but easily could transition in a full fledged defensive end.
If you stick Parsons as a 3-4 weak side linebacker I think we could be looking at Pro Bowl caliber linebacker in two to three seasons. He can flex his background as a pass rusher more often and make him just that much more valuable. Putting him in a 4-3 will give offenses more opportunities to target him in coverage, but I believe he can adapt to that role too.