With the 12th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys have selected linebacker Micah Parsons from Penn State. The Cowboys are replacing one Penn State linebacker, Sean Lee, with another. Parsons opted out of 2020, but was a force in 2019. The Cowboys have an affinity for drafting linebackers high like they did with Leighton Vander Esch in 2018.
The Cowboys need at linebacker has been growing as Lee retired, they haven’t picked up the fifth-year option for Vander Esch, and Jaylon Smith has had consistency issues. Parsons was ranked as the top defensive player in this draft by many analysts, and his on field performance in 2019 was outstanding. Drafting an off-ball linebacker this high has always been a debatable move, and one many in the Cowboys fanbase were against. Dallas probably was eyeing a cornerback in this round, but once Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn were off the board, they went with the best player available on defense.
Some draft profiles for Parsons.
Performance-grade inside/outside linebacker prospect possessing an NFL-ready frame and explosive speed that could make him a highly productive talent at the next level. He’s most impactful when he’s kept clean and allowed to run and chase the action, but carries no physical limitations into the pros. His instincts and play recognition need to catch up with his physical gifts in order to play downhill and find the most efficient routes to the football. His rush talent is a potential wild card in how teams decide to use him, but he’s likely to show rapid improvement and should be a Day 1 starter.
Micah Parsons projects as a dynamic impact player at the NFL level. Parsons, who elected to opt-out of the 2020 college football season, has two seasons of high-impact play on his film resume and his impact was only further affirmed as the Penn State defense fell apart without him on the field for the 2020 season. Parsons, who was a prized recruit as a pass rusher coming out of high school, is still ironing out some of finer points of play processing on the second level but his freakish combination of size and explosiveness allow him to explode and drive into gaps when he sees the play develop and as a result he’s a persistent winner of beating ball carriers and blockers to the spot between the tackles. Parsons is an impact player on third downs, which significantly boosts his value to pro teams and masks some of the inexperiences of transitioning to stack linebacker. He’s a dynamic blitzer and has the versatility to rush against offensive linemen and claim victories to get home to the quarterback. Parsons has illustrated an incredible level of pure instinct for the game thus far and his ability to navigate the line of scrimmage and rip at the football to create turnovers is best accentuated in an aggressive front defense that will task him with playing forward early in downs and not ask him to make flat footed reads before scraping and flowing to the ball.
- Round 1, pick 12 – Micah Parsons
- Round 2, pick 44
- Round 3, pick 70
- Round 3, pick 75
- Round 3, pick 99
- Round 4, pick 115
- Round 4, pick 138
- Round 5, pick 179
- Round 6, pick 192
- Round 6, pick 227
- Round 7, pick 238
CB – It’s the most popular position for the Cowboys to use their #10 pick on. Chidobe Awuzie departed in free agency from a group that wasn’t very strong to begin with. Trevon Diggs is a piece to build on, but the Cowboys need help.
OL – Injury and age are catching up to various pieces of the Cowboys once-vaunted offensive line. Tyron Smith has an uncertain long-term future, and the middle of the line still has question marks.
DL – The Cowboys could use an infusion of talent at both defensive tackle and defensive end. Expect both positions to be among the picks this weekend.
LB – Sean Lee retired, Joe Thomas left in free agency, and the Cowboys are undecided on Leighton Vander Esch’s fifth-year option. This is a need that has been building this offseason.
S – The Cowboys signed a few free agents to go with Donovan Wilson, but they were mostly one-year contracts. The long-term stability of the position is in doubt, and the small sample size of Wilson’s work only adds to that.