By Dylan MacKinnon
It’s been over 40 years since the Eagles last took a linebacker in the 1st round. Jerry Robinson in 1979 was the last time they did so. But could that change this year with Micah Parsons? The Penn State linebacker is seen as one of the best defenders in the 2021 draft. So could he be a fit at 12 or at another pick if the Eagles move down again, or even move back up?
On the Field
You won’t find many people who have issues with Parsons on the field. As one scout put it, “he does it all.” Need someone to defend the run and make a tackle in open field? He has the second lowest missed tackle rate in this draft, missing only 5% of his tackles. Need someone who can blitz the QB? He has the 2nd highest pass rush win rate among linebackers in the draft, 24%. Need someone who can drop back in coverage? In 539 career coverage snaps at Penn State, he never allowed a TD. 41.5 sacks and 64.5 tackles for loss, on top of five forced fumbles, and two interceptions.
So he excels at rushing the passer, stopping the run, and dropping back in coverage. That’s pretty much all you need a linebacker to do. The scary thing is he can get better. His athletic profile is monstrous.
LB1 Micah Parsons' Penn State Pro Day 🤯 pic.twitter.com/XSJceKuPEy— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 25, 2021
The only knock on him is he relies too much on his athleticism and not enough on instincts. But you can teach a player how to correctly diagnose a play and get to the right spot. You can’t teach a guy to run as fast and be as big as Parsons is. His numbers would be even better if he hadn’t opted out his final year.
James franklin had nothing but praise for Parsons. Even after he opted out.
“His work ethic enabled him to become a consensus All-American in 2019, the first sophomore to be the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year last fall and to be considered one of the top returning defensive players in the country this season. What’s more impressive than his work ethic on the field is his work ethic in the classroom. He is on track to graduate in December and was also on pace to become an Academic All-Big Ten selection this fall.
My job as the head coach of Penn State is to help everybody in our organization achieve their dreams and Micah is a great example. Micah and I have had many conversations about his NFL aspirations throughout the recruiting process and his time at Penn State; he is now ready to pursue those opportunities. I fully support Micah, his decision to opt out of the 2020 season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Again, I couldn’t be more proud of him and I am excited to see him play on Sundays in 2021.”
Off the Field
The issues come with red flags off the field. The most glaring off which is an alleged incident with another former Penn State player Isaiah Humphries. Humphries made multiple accusations of harassment and bullying vs Penn State, some of which included Parsons.
Humphries has filed suit vs Penn State. While Parsons is not listed as a defendant, he is named in the complaints. He claims that several Penn State players, including Parsons, Yetur Gross-Matos, Jesse Luketa and Damion Barber, took place in hazing against him, and other Penn State players. Only Barber is named as a defendant in the case, but in court filings he makes several troubling allegations against Parsons. The things he claims Parsons and the others did to him and others in the locker room include
- Stealing clothing
- Telling others they intended to make them “their bitch because this is a prison.”
- Pinning others down and simulating a humping action.
- Placing their genitals on his face and buttocks
- Parsons and he got into a fight, that ended in Parsons choking him to the point he needed to brandish a knife to get Parsons off him
He also claims the Penn State coaching covered much this up. All of these are currently just allegations. Humphries claims to have evidence, but because it’s an active lawsuit that evidence is not yet public. Penn State has denied the claims.
Parsons did not outright deny the claims, but he addressed them, and defended himself. This is what he had to say about the allegations at his Pro Day.
“We all made mistakes when we were 17 (or) 18. I’m not gonna let it control or dictate the person I am now. I’m not gonna let something that was four years (ago) dictate who I’m becoming and the father I want to be. Everyone’s gonna learn and grow. I’m pretty sure none of you are making the same mistakes when you were 17 (or) 18 or even 25.
If someone’s gonna judge me over that, then I’d rather not be in their program. You know, I know what type of person I’m becoming. I know what type of father I’m becoming. That’s all that matters to me. So anybody who’s gonna accept my wrongs when I was wrong, and accept my rights when I’m right, I’m ready to go ahead and give them my all. But if it’s gonna come down to something that I did in high school, or, you know, something I wish I could change — I can control what I control: what I do moving forward. So that’s how I feel about it.”
This year in person interviews are limited. Teams will have a harder time assessing character concerns. We wont know how real the allegations are until the lawsuit is settled. Teams will have to evaluate the issue on their own, and decide if Parsons has genuine character concerns, and if those concerns are worth his talent.
What the Experts Say
“Parsons is a tremendous athlete who forces turnovers with big hits and explosiveness. He offers the ability to develop into a three-down defender, but he must polish his instincts and be quicker diagnosing plays rather than relying on sheer athleticism to get to the action. He’s a scheme-versatile linebacker, though I prefer him as a traditional weak side 4-3 outside ‘backer.”
“We’ve seen some outstanding off-ball linebackers in the last few draft classes. Last year’s group featured three first-rounders (Kenneth Murray, Patrick Queen and Jordyn Brooks). Obviously, this is based on a limited exposure to Parsons, but as of right now, I have him graded above all three of those players. He is a complete player. Queen lacked ideal size. Murray had some questions about his instincts. And Brooks wasn’t quite as physical. Parsons checks off all the boxes.”
Jordan Reid- The Draft Network
Outside of Penei Sewell, Penn State LB Micah Parsons (6-3, 244, Jr.) is the best non-QB prospect that I’ve seen so far this summer. Size, speed, instincts, blitz value, and coverage ability. He has it all. pic.twitter.com/bPXMFAdwC6— Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) June 6, 2020
Micah Parsons is as close to a lock as you get in terms of on field talent. I have struggled to find anyone with anything negative to say about his play. The big question is the off the field stuff. The issue there is that there is nothing concrete. As of now its only allegations, with nothing out there to either prove or disprove them. Would the Eagles take a guy with those allegations hanging over them? Would they break the 40 year tradition of not taking a linebacker for a guy with red flags? It seems unlikely. But with his talent he has to be a player to watch.