The Future: 2021 NFL Draft Prospects Micah Parsons
Micah Parsons is arguably the best defensive prospect in this class and the best pure linebacker prospect since Luke Keuchly. He can be compared to last year's Isiah Simmons in the sense that they both are ridiculous athletes with elite size that are extremely versatile. At 6-3, 245, he is around the same size as Simmons, just with more weight. He will run somewhere in the 4.4s in the 40-yard dash and has elite strength to go along with the athleticism. Parsons decided to opt out of the 2020 season to prepare for the draft and without playing a single snap in the 2020 season he should go as a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft. Below I will discuss 6 aspects of the linebacker game and just how good Parsons is at all of them.
Vs Run at Point of Attack: This is how well he can diagnose, leverage his gap, take on blocks, and tackle. Parsons athletic ability is absurd when looking at how he can diagnose and meet runners both at the line of scrimmage and often behind it. He has elite length to take on blocks and shed them with ease and his size alone helps him engulf runners. He is a sure tackler with runs between the tackles and slips blocks like an edge rusher does. Whether he is being blocked by a tight end, an offensive lineman, or a full-back it doesn't matter because he is always getting to the ball.
Outside Run: This part of the game is more about angles and tackling in space, both of which Parsons is elite. His athleticism helps him take angles that many linebackers only dream of. His ability to not only get to the edge but sometimes beat runners there shows just how athletic he is. His tackling in space can be more consistent but that's nit-picking as his length/athleticism combo helps him make plays all over the field.
Zone Coverage: Zone coverage for a linebacker is all about dropping, getting to your landmark, reading the quarterback as well as the routes around you, and breaking on the ball. Parsons is very good in zone coverage. He gets to his marks with ease and is always in the right spot to make a play on the ball. His ability to read both the quarterback and diagnose routes are both very good. His break on the ball in good to get him in position to beat the ball to the receiver but he needs better ball production which I will discuss more in ball skills.
Man Coverage: Man coverage is simply his ability to mirror players, mainly running backs and tight ends, in confined areas. He isn't often put in the situation where he needs to turn and run with receivers so I would like to see him in that situation more before I can truly say if he is good at it or not, but based on his athleticism alone I can assume that he would at minimum be solid to handle his own in man coverage. I personally wouldn't put him in man coverage situations often because his strengths are in other aspects of the game.
Ball Skills: Ball skills are a linebacker's ability to get his hands on the ball and cause fumbles. His ball skills need to improve in the passing game. This is the one part of his game where he is not quite elite yet as he is often in the right spot to make a play on the ball but he cannot finish it and create the turnover. Getting his hands on the ball isn't the problem, catching it is as he doesn't seem comfortable catching the ball and completing interceptions. This can be solved at the next level though. Parsons' ball skills in terms of being able to force fumbles are very good, having forced 6 fumbles over 2 years at Penn State.
Pass Rush/Blitz: Pass rushing and blitzing are not the same thing. Pass rush is being on the ball and having to beat a lineman by shedding blocks and finishing at the quarterback. Blitzing is being off the ball and is more about timing, speed, and finding the right gap to attack also while finishing at the quarterback. This is where Parsons is a special prospect as he is elite at both. In high school, Parsons was a 5-star defensive end recruit so his technique and comfortability with rushing the passer are there. He has shown different speed and power moves to avoid and shed blockers to get to the quarterback. As a blitzer, he shows elite speed, timing, and again ability to shed blocks to get the quarterback. His finish at the quarterback is also elite. He is a big, strong player who goes for the ball while sacking the quarterback to try and create fumbles. This is arguably the best aspect of his game and he is going to be a player who can consistently create pressure and get sacks at the next level.
Parsons is the best defensive player in this draft and is the type of player who can get an NFL team 125-150 tackles a year or 10-15 sacks a year depending on how he is used. He is a special player who is versatile enough to line up anywhere in the front 7. He is going to be a player that a defense will be able to build around for the next 10+ years.