After sitting out the 2020 college football season, is Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons still one of the premier defensive players in the 2021 NFL Draft?
After initially going to Penn State as a defensive end, Parsons made the move to middle linebacker early in his career. As a sophomore, he moved into the starting lineup and amassed 109 tackles and five sacks, winning the Butkus–Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award and being named a consensus All-American. Parsons unknowingly finished his college career as the Defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl Classic with 14 tackles, two sacks, and two forced fumbles. He ended up opting-out of the 2020 season and declaring for the draft.
Parsons has the ideal combination of size and athleticism for an NFL linebacker. He will immediately become one of the most explosive linebackers in the NFL and is a talented pass rusher, even from the middle linebacker position. Not only does Parsons run to ball carriers quicker than most linebackers but he also has the instincts to go after the football and force fumbles.
The only knock on Parsons is that he only played two seasons in college, just one as a starter. He remains unpolished and somewhat inexperienced as a middle linebacker. That could lead to some growing pains on the mental side of the game early in his NFL career. However, Parsons has the athleticism to make up for it.
Parsons should be a starting middle linebacker for a long time. He will be best utilized in an aggressive defense that utilizes his skills as a blitzing linebacker. Parsons will undoubtedly be the first linebacker selected in the draft. But whether he’s a top-10 pick will depend on the needs of teams drafting 6-10.