Penn State Football linebacker Micah Parsons could be the first defensive player chosen in the 2021 NFL Draft, and one former NFL executive believes he can be a perennial All-Pro
Micah Parsons opted out of Penn State Football’s 2020 season to prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, and remains the consensus top linebacker in this year’s class. One veteran NFL talent evaluator has even higher expectations for Parsons.
“He can be a game-changer,” a long-time NFL personnel executive tells VictoryBellRings, on the condition of anonymity so he could speak freely on Parsons as he still consults for several teams. “Devin White, who I loved coming out of LSU, Micah is a much better prospect than him. Devin was very athletic, very fast, you see it on the NFL level.”
White, one of the game’s premier inside linebackers, made a compelling case to be named the MVP of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl victory over the Kansas City Chiefs, producing a game-high 12 total tackles, two tackles for loss and breaking up a pass on the game’s grandest stage.
Firing up Parsons’ film from his two seasons in Happy Valley after arriving as a five-star defensive end and converting to inside linebacker, it’s easy to see the comparisons between the Harrisburg native and White, who was named a Second-Team All-Pro in his second season.
“I like Micah a lot,” the executive says. “I like the fact that he moves and plays like he’s a 235-pound guy, and he’s 245-250 pounds. That’s very unique. He flies around, but yet he brings substance with him, and that’s hard to find.”
Parsons, 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, produced 191 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, forced six fumbles and recovered one in his two seasons as the heart of the Nittany Lions‘ defense. In 26 games, Parsons quickly made the transition from defensive end to instinctual sideline-to-sideline linebacker, while being more than capable of flashing as a disruptive pass rusher.
That kind of versatility is only going to bolster Parsons’ stock, the closer we get to April’s NFL Draft.
“Most of the time, you get guys who are that fast and that quick but weigh 230 pounds and you can’t figure out where to play him,” the executive says. “This guy moves like that, plays like that, hits like that, and all of a sudden it’s like ‘holy shit, you can play this guy anywhere.’ You can play Micah at inside linebacker, outside backer, he can put his hand in the dirt on third down if you want him to and rush the passer with him.”
The long-time personnel man has a top-20 grade on Parsons, but he isn’t alone in his bullish assessment of the Penn State Football standout. Pro Football Focus recently named Parsons to the outlet’s All-Era team, as the highest-graded linebacker prospect they have evaluated, giving him an all-time high run-stopping grade of 94.9.
Despite production, versatility, speed, strength, and instincts, Parsons is not a perfect process, and the executive says that there is one glaring area that Parsons must improve in if he is going to reach his potential.
“The thing that he has to do, which is hard, is he needs to be better with his hands when taking on blocks. He doesn’t like using his hands. He’s so quick and fast that Big Ten offensive linemen couldn’t get on him, but in the NFL, they can. Once they get on you, I don’t care if you’re 245 or 250 pounds, they’re between 300 and 350, they’re going to wrangle you. To be a really good inside player, he needs to learn that.”
The executive believes that given the way NFL defenses now weaponize their playmakers to exploit mismatches along oposing offensive lines, so long as Parsons follows in White’s footsteps and improves his hand-fighting technique at the point of attack, he has the chance to be an every down player either as an outside linebacker, defensive end, or even stepping in as an NFL middle linebacker and captain of a defense.
“Ray Lewis, Patrick Willis, they’re the best inside linebackers in the last 25 years,” the executive says. “And what made them so good was their hand use. Once they got their hands on a lineman and stunned them, they’re so quick and fast, they could get off the blocks and make the tackle.
“The one thing Micah has to do, is he has to use his hands inside vs. traffic to become the kind of player he has the potential to be. If he figures that out, he’s going to be a perennial All-Pro for as many years as he wants to be.”