NFL Draft Opt-Out Tracker: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

Height: 6’2″
Weight: 240 lbs
DOB:05/26/1999
Year:Junior
High School: Harrisburg (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
Micah Parsons Specs

Many in NFL Draft circles are hyping Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons to be an incredible prospect who could potentially be the first defender off of the board in the 2021 NFL Draft. While I don’t buy that, especially with Miami EDGE defender Gregory Rousseau entering the draft, Parsons is a special linebacker in a strong positional class and can be a very early draft pick himself.

A consensus All-American and Butkus Award finalist last year, Parsons has shades of greatness in his game. He ended the 2019 season with 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks. He could knock the football loose too, as he forced 4 fumbles.

He should test fairly well at the NFL Combine, simply because he possesses great athleticism. That, combined with his prototypical size, will make him an extremely intriging option for NFL teams looking to add a linebacker to their team next season.

Scouting Report: LB Micah Parsons, Penn State

Coming into this report, I had seen a lot of the hype surrounding Micah Parsons, but I hadn’t really gotten a chance to look at him yet. If we are talking in terms of potential, Parsons is through the roof. There are so many things that he does well, and the things he’s not quite there on he has shown flashes of being capable of greatness.

Matt Bowen here breaks him down pretty well for the tweet; a disruptive linebacker prospect with athletic and physical traits. Parsons shows good instincts across the board, and despite having a few flaws in his game can be a strong impact.

Speed/Athleticism

There is no doubt that Micah Parsons will test well at the NFL combine. He’s a very good athlete who plays with incredible athleticism. I like how Parsons plays low, and keeps his center of gravity lower than most, making him a difficult player to block or contain. He can duck under attempted blocks and move back into the play.

Parson’s athleticism allows him to be versatile across the board, and Penn State wasn’t afraid to line him up in several different positions. While those positions won’t be as extensive in the NFL, Parsons will most definitely provide the versatility needed to be a weapon in a defensive scheme.

Don’t buy a lot of this hype surround him being a top-level athlete. I think that Parsons will not be close to testing as well as Isaiah Simmons did, and isn’t nearly the athlete that a lot of people are trying to pump him to be. He’s a good athlete, not a spectacular one.

Strength/Power

Parsons has good core strength that he uses effectively as a tackler. Because of his ability to play low, Parsons is a difficult prospect to block.

Parsons does struggle to get off of blocks, but I think that’s from a lack of technique rather than a lack of strength. Parsons has a lot of good ability to his game, and there isn’t much that worries me personally in this aspect.

Tackling/Pursuit

Parson’s possesses good core strength and can light up an opposing ball carrier. His style is to use his speed and athleticism to focus his power and deliver a crushing blow. Parsons also has the capability to be a strong wrap-up tackler and seems to know when to use each style accordingly.

The power that Parsons hits with is impressive. With his low playing style, he is able to drive through the player on the hit and be a nuisance to shake off.

However, Parson’s pursuit angles are oftentimes very rough. He almost tries to rely too much on his athleticism and gets torched when facing more athletic opponents. Sometimes he will overpursue a point and miss the tackle completely. It’s something that he will have to adjust to at the next level.

Traffic is something that Parsons can struggle to work through. He prefers a clean angle to the ball carrier, and if he doesn’t have that he will use his athleticism to try and make up for it. I think that’s what creates his habit of poor angles to the football.

Pass Coverage Ability

From what I could tell, Parsons is very strong when dropping into pass coverage. He appears to read and react to plays accordingly, and generally gets proper depth when dropping into his zone. He has the athleticism to go man-to-man with tight ends down the field in the NFL, but he was often used to cover running backs.

From a zone coverage standpoint, I see a lot of good with a little bit of inconsistency. Parsons can get sidetracked trying to do too much, especially when playing against a dual threat quarterback. He will not drop and get the depth that he needs in his zone to effectively take away the play because he’s ready to react to a quarterback run.

Man coverage isn’t something that Parsons was asked to play a lot of due to the Penn State scheme and the other usages that the team had for him. However, I saw impressive traits in the limited repetitions that he played that would tell me that he will be good at taking away running backs and tight ends in the NFL.

Pass Rush Ability

Parsons was used from time-to-time as an EDGE rusher, playing from both a down three-point-stance and upright. Overall, I was impressed with the pressure he was able to create with a lack of upper body technique to engage offensive linemen. Parsons doesn’t seem to have the hand technique to disengage blockers but instead uses his strength and athleticism to work them.

Nov 30, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights quarterback Johnny Langan (17) is tackled by Penn State Nittany Lions linebacker Micah Parsons (11) during the second quarter at Beaver Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Because of his lack of technique when engaging with offensive linemen, I wouldn’t expect the NFL to use him outside as an edge rusher. I would, however, expect to see the NFL use Parsons as a timing rusher, someone who gets through a gap quickly and effectively pressures the quarterback. He has shown the ability to do that too, and he was very good.

Football IQ/Instincts

I think that Micah Parsons displays good football intelligence, and shows the potential to be a very instinctual football player. That being said, I think he still needs time to develop his instincts to become an even better player. His instincts oftentimes feel raw to me, mostly because he doesn’t impact as many plays as I thought he would.

More times than not, Parsons correctly reads the play and positions himself accordingly. There are enough lapses to that, however, to make me question just how instinctual it is. It’s a lot of little things. I want to see him get more depth in the zone during a pass coverage rep, or take a different angle to the ball carrier.

Leadership/Personality

Micah Parsons is a good leader on the field, vocal and inspiring. The majority of his teammates love and respect him, and look to him as their leader and motivator.

It is worth noting that Parsons was named, along with Yetur Gross-Matos and others on the team, as one of the leaders hazing and harassing other teammates in a suit against the Penn State University and head coach James Franklin. Clearly, the NFL didn’t see these allegations as a huge concern, as Gross-Matos was selected early in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Parsons stands up for what he believes in. Parsons is concerned with the truth, and nothing more. The above tweet got Parsons suspended a football game in high school when he reposted his classmate’s racist picture, along with the comment, “I gotta transfer.” Parsons isn’t afraid to speak out against people and has done so on his Twitter account for years.

Because of his willingness to speak out and stand for what he believes in, I think that the potential for Parsons to create enemies in the locker room is there. I think that if someone has a problem with that aspect of Parsons personality, I wouldn’t want them on my team. I don’t think that it’s a problem.

Overall

Micah Parsons is certainly a first-round pick in this upcoming draft. Out of the first three prospects who opted-out of the 2020 season (Parsons, Minnesota receiver Rashod Bateman, and Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley), I think Parsons is the most likely to go in the first round and drafted higher.

He can fit into almost any scheme in the league because of his versatility, which will place him very high on a lot of draft boards. He’s capable of being on the field as both a middle linebacker and as an outside linebacker. His coverage ability will also place him high on a lot of boards as well. Cover linebackers are in short supply.

I think there is a really good chance Parsons goes top-fifteen. We will see how the rest of the class plays out (Nick Bolton, Dylan Moses, etc.).

Grade: Immediate Impact