If you want to see a respectable lineage, just look at the history of linebackers making their way from Happy Valley to the NFL mountaintop. From Dave Robinson to Jack Ham to LaVar Arrington to NaVarro Bowman, Penn State University has manufactured a crop of ball-chasing linebackers that come to the league with the intention to deliver the pain.
With the Atlanta Falcons sitting within the top-5 of the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft and a new regime with a new sense of direction, they can very well have an opportunity to add the latest impactful linebacker from the Nittany Lions tree. The 2021 NFL Draft kicks off on April 29th and this Penn State defender is much expected to hear his name called that night, possibly by an Atlanta Falcons defense that can benefit from his services.
Micah Parsons Scouting Report
Weight: 240 pounds
Stats: 191 total tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, five pass deflections, six forced fumbles (26 career games)
Games watched: 2018 vs. Iowa , 2018 vs. Kentucky, 2019 vs. Michigan, 2019 vs. Minnesota, 2019 vs. Memphis
It should be worth noted that Parsons entered his Penn State career as an outside linebacker/edge rusher. Once he walked onto the campus in Happy Valley, he was inserted at the inside linebacker spot to experiment a little and ended up finding his home for the next two seasons. As a true freshman in 2018, Parsons officially only started one game but his versatility was a legitimate asset for the Nittany Lions with his ability to play at the MIKE spot and be unleashed on passing downs as an elite blitzer or capable edge rusher. The explosiveness is seen everywhere when watching Parsons on film. When assigned to attack the offense on a designed blitz, you can easily notice the instinctual nature of Parsons as a former pass rusher. He looks every bit of 240 pounds with his NFL-like physique.
When Parsons has a plan to attack run gaps, there is no hesitation and his combination of short-area quickness and power allows him to often affect a play even if he does not necessarily register a tackle. Parsons is a firm tackler and brings the noise when it’s time to bring down ball carriers. The physical nature of Parsons will rarely, if ever, be questioned. That along with his overall versatility can be an asset for just about any team. Parsons has a legit skill set that can allow him to be a future All-Pro in a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
Thanks to his sideline-to-sideline speed, Parsons is able to close in on ball carriers effectively, even when filtering through traffic. Parsons is solid in pass coverage, in particular, zone where he is able to use his vision and agility to make plays. Think about the effectiveness of Hall-of-Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks as he manned the middle of the field in the Tampa-2 defense while in pass coverage.
While Parsons can be an asset in zone coverage against the pass, there is a question mark about whether he can hold his own consistently enough in single coverage. The athleticism of Parsons says he will be more than able to hold up his end of the bargain. But it was a phase that was not seen quite often enough during his time at Penn State.
On occasion, the assertiveness of Parsons can allow him to be taken out of a play by being overly aggressive. A definite fixable trait where Parsons can learn to anticipate plays a little more efficiently. A result of learning how to better time up plays. I also would like to see Parsons utilize that frame more when it comes to shedding blockers in his path. He has the overall strength to be better in that department but on occasion, he tends to latch on to blockers longer than he should.
As it stands, I am confident when I say that Parsons is the best defender in the 2021 NFL Draft class. As we all witnessed last season, the Falcons defense was simply void of playmakers. Absent were defenders that possess difference-making talent and the ability to elevate a defense with their presence beyond Grady Jarrett and occasionally Foye Oluokun and Deion Jones. Inserting Micah Parsons into the lineup changes that.
I know what each of you are thinking. Yes, the Falcons have a pair of linebackers in Deion Jones and Foye Oluokun that were a solid duo for the Falcons last season, and Mykal Walker looks good as well. Even with more of a shift to a 3-4 schematic approach, the Falcons may not require the services of Parsons.
But for a minute, just think about the scheme being implemented with this Falcons unit. The scheme itself is predicated on various blitzes and versatility, which are two strong attributes within the skill set of Parsons. His addition allows the Falcons to be exotic because of his ability to rush off the edge on occasion, blitz the interior effectively as well as drop in coverage to allow the athletic Jones and Oluokun to blitz and apply pressure when need be.
The veteran coach Dean Pees has worked with this luxury before. Inside linebacker may not be a definite need for the Falcons defense, but playmaking ability, versatility and elite-level talent are needs. Parsons can undoubtedly provide all three.