NFL

2020 NFL Draft Grades: Cowboys get “best defensive player in the draft.”

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Grading a draft a mere hours after after the last pick is generally frowned on by the more hardcore football fan who knows that drafts can’t really be graded until three to four years after the fact.

Regardless, what the grades do – to some extent – is they capture the national media reaction about a draft immediately after it is over. And that national reaction may perfectly mirror or completely contradict your own personal social media filter bubble.

Below, we’ll look at 12 writers who have submitted their grades for the Cowboys already, and they are quite a bit better than my own personal filter bubble last night would have led me to believe. It might be time to update my filter bubble.


A+ grade from NFL.com

Analysis: The Cowboys made a rare first-round, intra-division trade with the Eagles once the draft’s two top cornerbacks went off the board. They picked up a third-round selection to move down just two spots.

Parsons will pound runners in the box and chase them to the sideline. He’s not long, but he can do it all utilizing his quickness and powerful. Once again, teams allowed a strong linebacker to fall into the middle-third of the first round, a la Tremaine Edmunds in 2018. It won’t surprise me if he joins Edmunds as a Pro Bowl selectee within three years.

Another NFL.com take offers no specific grade, but Bucky Brooks is talking about a “Superstar”.

Parsons might emerge as the best defensive player in the draft when it is all said and done. He is a freak athlete with explosive strength, power and speed. As an A-plus blitz specialist with a nasty disposition, Parsons could play at a superstar level early in his career in the right system.

DraftWire thinks Dallas got the best defensive player in the draft: A

This pick had to be defense, and the Cowboys land the best defensive player in this entire draft, even getting him outside the top 10 after trading back. Parsons is a rare athlete for his size, with the physicality to match. He’s a three-down playmaker who can stuff the run and cover backs and tight ends. This defense needs an identity change, and Parsons is the perfect pick to make that happen.

NBCSports with another A

The Cowboys addressed a weakness on their defense by selecting a linebacker with All-Pro potential.

Micah Parsons has the size, strength and speed to wreak havoc on defense. He’s an excellent tackler, he can blitz and he can cover. Parsons was an AP All-American in 2019 but didn’t play in 2020 after opting out of the season amid the pandemic.

Dallas did very well trading back two spots and getting Parsons plus an Eagles’ third-round pick.

The Ringer also likes the pick and gave it an A-

Dallas was likely pretty sad to see Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II come off the board in the top 10, but Parsons is a good fit for the Cowboys, who desperately need to upgrade their talent-deficient defense. With prototypical size and elite speed, the former Nittany Lions star can wear a number of hats for Dallas, both against the run, in coverage, and as a situational pass-rusher. My comp for Parsons was Jaylon Smith; now they’re teammates.

FoxSports is also on the A-train: A-

With all due respect to those selected ahead of him, Parsons had the best tape of any defender in this class – although it came back in 2019, prior to his opting out on 2020. Instinctive and explosive, Parsons is the kind of glass-eating middle linebacker every club is looking to add to its roster, and his sideline-to-sideline speed matches up beautifully with Jaylon Smith. With Sean Lee retiring and former first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch struggling with durability, this isn’t just an example of the Cowboys taking the Best Player Available, it also fills a key need. And Dallas acquired an extra third-round pick from Philadelphia in doing so. Dallas might have been hoping for a cornerback initially, but the depth in this class at that position is very good. Only character red flags for Parsons temper my enthusiasm slightly.

The Athletic says “good process, good results”: B+

There’s no denying that Parsons has a high ceiling. At 6-foot-3, 246 pounds, he ran a 4.36 40. Parsons led Penn State in tackles in 2018 and 2019 before opting out last year. His athleticism jumps off the screen, and Parsons consistently made highlight plays firing downhill against the run or while rushing the passer. He’ll have to prove himself as a defender in man coverage, but Parsons’ versatility and explosiveness are attractive. New defensive coordinator Dan Quinn can deploy him in a number of different ways, and Parsons has the chance to have a special career.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys picked up an extra third-round pick by moving down from 10 to 12. Good process, good result.

SBNation calls it a “BPA pick on defense”: B+

There’s a pretty clear through line here. With Chicago jumping up for a QB it’s clear the Cowboys weren’t comfortable going down to No. 20 and still getting a player like Parsons. Widely regarded as the best defensive player in the draft, it might not be a position of huge need for the Cowboys, who desperately needed a cornerback — but it’s a BPA pick on defense.

For The Win: B

Micah Parsons wasn’t projected much to the Cowboys, but with Horn and Surtain off the board, he might be the best defensive prospect left in the draft. Parsons has to work on his coverage ability, but he’s a monster truck coming through the line of scrimmage. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylor Smith quickly became unreliable, which probably drove this pick. Getting Parsons after trading down adds to the value here.

CBSSports curiously chastizes the Cowboys for not drafting more for need. B

Do the Cowboys really need a linebacker? I know their linebackers didn’t play as well last year, but this wasn’t a major need.

DraftKings believes the Cowboys played the draft correctly. B

The Cowboys look to have played this correctly, as they were sniped at cornerback and decided to trade back and get a little more draft capital while still getting their next target Parsons. I’d like to have seen an offensive lineman here, but Parsons is an impact player and the Cowboys defense need his range, especially now that Sean Lee is gone.

Sporting News: “Curious superfluous” is not how you want your draft pick described: B-

Dallas makes a curious superfluous pick to add to its linebacker strength with Jaylen Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, going back to the program that produced venerable retiree Sean Lee. Parsons is a rangy playmaker who excels at covering and blitzing. He can line up everywhere to help their defense in another way, but cornerback and true edge rusher were much bigger needs for Dallas and there also were strong options for the offensive line still on the board.


Here’s how the Cowboys’ grades compare to the rest of the NFC East.

NFC East Draft Grades 2021
Cowboys Eagles Giants Washington
NFL.com A+ A A+ B+
DraftWire A B+ C+ B
NBCSports A B- B+ B
The Ringer A- A B- B
FoxSports A- A- B- B
The Athletic B+ B C- B
SB Nation B+ A+ B C
For The Win B B+ C C+
CBSSports B B+ B A
DraftKings B A C C
Sporting News B- A- B B

Now that you’ve had a night to sleep over it, how do you feel about the pick?

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