Micah Parsons makes case to be top defensive player in draft

Micah Parsons

If Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons was trying to get the Panthers' attention, he said the secret word.

Parsons could be the highest-drafted defensive player in the 2021 NFL Draft, and teams watching his pro day workouts Thursday saw nothing to dissuade them.

At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, he ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash, an incredibly fast time for a man that size.

But as tape showed the last time he played, that kind of explosive athleticism shouldn't have been a surprise.

"I just feel like I'm the most versatile player in this class. I can play middle linebacker. I can play outside and I can pass-rush," he said. "I don't think there's no place I can't play at the linebacker spot.

"I'm going to just make plays happen as I did at Penn State, show these guys . . . we always do this, we show up in big-time games and big-time moments, so I don't think it's going to be anything less. We were trained for this."

Of course, others may dispute the claim of being Linebacker U, but Parsons clearly put on a display when he did play for Penn State.

He opted out of the 2020 season, but had 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks, and four forced fumbles in 2019. He came to Penn State as a defensive end, but led the team in tackles both seasons after making the switch.

Despite the limited body of work (just 26 games in two seasons), he projects as the kind of all-around linebacker the NFL is looking for. He has the kind of speed to allow him to cover downfield, and his potential as a pass-rusher makes him an intriguing part for teams that like to move players around (if you happen to know any of those).

NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah described him as a player with "the ability to do everything."

"Off the ball you can also rush him a little bit," Jeremiah said. "As impressive as his range and instincts are against the run, to me it's what he does in coverage. You see him cover tight ends up there at Penn State. You see him cover backs. I would have loved to have seen him this year, but I get it, he put so much good stuff on tape in '19 that he made the decision that he did.

"He would fit in with that versatility that everybody is looking for. But more than anything else, I think with linebackers right now, I'm looking at guys that can really run and cover, and he can do it."

As far as the Panthers go, he might not play a priority position, but a player as talented as Parsons has to be evaluated, regardless of need.

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