Micah Parsons is heading to the Dallas Cowboys in 2021. It wasn't the team's initial plan entering the NFL draft, but they're very pleased at how things went for them after seeing the top two cornerbacks taken just ahead of their pick at No. 10. They found themselves in an unpleasant situation when tight end Kyle Pitts went to the Atlanta Falcons at No. 4, followed by their two highest-graded cornerbacks -- Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain, II -- heading to the Carolina Panthers at No. 8 and the Denver Broncos at No. 9, respectively; but that's when owner Jerry Jones and Co. got creative.
They didn't just find a trade partner, they found one in an NFC East rival. New York Giants and select Heisman Trophy-winning receiver DeVonta Smith. Two picks after they were initially scheduled to go on the clock, the Cowboys took the highest-rated defensive player still on their board in Parsons, while gaining an extra third-round pick in the process.to grant them the 10th-overall pick in exchange for the 12th- and 84th-overall selections, allowing the Eagles to leapfrog the
Needless to say, he was ecstatic, but also a little shocked.
"I was surprised a little bit," Parsons told 105.3FM the Fan following the pick. "But everything happens for a reason. I said I wanted to be a Cowboy, and I'm just happy my dream came true. ... I've been wanting to be a Cowboy.
"I'm looking for more games like that at AT&T Stadium."
Parsons joins the Cowboys with both warts and his share of beaming potential. It's a pick you can easily point to after watching his film and praise Dallas for hitting the jackpot, considering the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year is physically as talented as any player you'll ever see enter the NFL draft. His inexperience at the position can lend to errors in judgment on the field, though, with Parsons misdiagnosing plays that might've otherwise been routine to someone with more than two years of experience in the role of an off-the-ball linebacker. The good news is this can be repaired with time and quality coaching, the latter being tasked to newly-hired defensive coordinator Dan Quinn -- who will look to Parsons to ultimately become the Bobby Wagner of his defense.
"You don't think it's too big for you to be a Cowboy, do you?" asked Jerry Jones of the Cowboys rookie. "Coach Dan Quinn is smiling from ear to ear."
Parson's response was one of a player champing at the bit to step in and hopefully fill the shoes of another former Penn State linebacker Sean Lee.:
"No, not at all!!" said Parsons.
Of course, this doesn't mean the two won't meet, with Lee looking to visit Cowboys training camp in July and the team being willing to carve out a role for him on its coaching staff. But until that happens, it's Quinn and Co. who must not only figure out how to quickly refine Parsons -- his physical traits putting him in the upper echelon of prospects -- but to also make sure there are no off-the-field issues that follow him to Dallas. Parsons was named in a hazing controversy at Penn State but, in his response to Dallas media regarding it, the 21-year-old holds firm to his innocence.
"I heard a lot of allegations about me," he told 105.3FM the Fan. "It was accusations. There's nothing at all. All allegations were false."
It is key to note the Cowboys did exhaustive work on Parsons, as with all other potential first-round (or any round) picks, and are satisfied there are no red flags there. And with that, presumably, the Consensus All-American and First-Team All-Big Ten talent can focus on what's to come in Dallas, and his presence presents even more question marks about the team's linebacker corps. After all, Jaylon Smith is coming off of a down year but his salary cap hit is only increasing as the seasons roll along, making him a prime candidate to no longer be with the club in 2022 -- unless he gets back to prime form. The Cowboys must also decide if they'll execute the fifth-year option on former first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch by Monday, May 3, .
Having now grabbed Parsons in the first round, it'll be interesting to see if they secure LVE for another year now, or if they let him enter a contract year and revisit potentially re-signing him on the open market next offseason. And then there's the signing of Keanu Neal, who is scheduled to be a player who flexes between safety (his base position) and linebacker, with head coach Mike McCarthy noting he'd start with the linebackers in training camp. Adding Parsons siphons LB snaps away from Neal though, barring injury at the position, and likely slides him more to the safety side of the equation to play in rotation with Donovan Wilson and Damontae Kazee; the latter joining him in following Quinn from the Atlanta Falcons.
Parsons hopes to give all three of them competition for playing time (as well as Francis Bernard and Luke Gifford), and his 6-foot-3, 245 pound frame is ready -- able to blast off to a blistering 4.36s 40-yard dash on demand.
"Linebacker U," head coach Mike McCarthy told the former Nittany Lion. "You got to keep the tradition going. You're a great fit for us, young man."
Parsons, who wants to wear No. 11 and would have to convince wideout Cedrick Wilson Jr. to allow it, tested in the 90th percentile in several of his measurables and could be lethal if he reaches his potential at the NFL level. The 2019 Cotton Bowl Defensive MVP, opted out of the 2020 season but was a highly sought after recruit out of high school who translated his traits well at the collegiate level -- to say the least. A former pass rusher turned stand-up LB, his explosiveness is almost a cheat code and, as such, would-be blockers are often two seconds too late in their attempt to keep him from hitting whatever spot (or person) he sets his eyes on. He'll be a relentless impact player in blitz packages (a nod to his days rushing off the edge), and he also has a nose for stripping away the football.
That's something the Cowboys could use in spades, along with his natural instincts that can only be described as a gift, because you simply can't teach what Parsons was given at birth in that regard. Circling back to a few of his warts, however, and you'll notice he struggles at times when he's asked to peel back and read then react in coverage -- easily his biggest area of opportunity.
He understands he still has room to grow, though, despite being the first Big Ten player with 100-plus tackles, 5-plus sacks and 3-plus forced fumbles in a season since Ryan Shazier achieved the feat in 2013.
"I didn't even touch my ceiling yet," he told 105.3 FM the Fan on Thursday evening.
That's exactly what the Cowboys are banking on.