In the end, Micah Parsons got his wish.
The former Penn State linebacker was selected by the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday with the 12th overall pick of the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Cowboys acquired Parsons after moving down two spots, trading the No. 10 choice to the rival Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for No. 12 and No. 84.
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One of, if not the top defensive prospect in this class, Parsons made 99 solo tackles, 6.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and five pass deflections across 2018-2019, his freshman and sophomore seasons. He opted out of the 2020 campaign due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A true three-down ‘backer, the 21-year-old is the total package, able to effectively plug the run and cover opposing receivers. He’s a rocked-up 6-foot-3, 244 pounds with sideline-to-sideline speed. He can blitz. He’s instinctual. He’s even able to double as an edge-rusher. NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah previously likened Parsons to current Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith.
“I loved the way Smith played in college,” Jeremiah wrote last June. “If not for that gruesome injury he suffered against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, he would’ve been one of the first players off the board in the 2016 draft. He has since recovered to have an outstanding career in Dallas. Parsons has a similar build and playing style. They are both so explosive and aggressive. It’s hard to find players with this type of agility and athleticism without sacrificing the size. If Parsons can stay healthy and continue to develop, he will emerge as one of the top five players in the country.”
On two separate occasions, Parsons openly campaigned to join the Cowboys. In December, he urged the team’s brain trust to keep him in “that blue and white.” In January, Parsons responded he wants to “start where I finished” when which team he prefers to land with, alongside a photo of himself before a game at AT&T Stadium.
“It means everything,” he said after being drafted, per NFL Network.
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Although a highly decorated collegian — 2019 Linebacker of the Year and consensus first-team All-American — Parsons is not without controversy. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Among the allegations: he choked a teammate and was involved in the hazing of other, younger teammates. These apparent character concerns scared off more than a few NFL teams from pulling the trigger on his unignorable talent.
“There’s some (concern) because he comes off like Odell Beckham with high-maintenance stuff — like a quarterback playing linebacker,” an anonymous league scout said earlier this month.
Role in Dallas
Parsons projects as a day-one starter opposite Jaylon Smith, who’s locked into a roster spot for the 2021 campaign. The Nittany Lions product is also the ready-made replacement for veteran LB Sean Lee, who announced his retirement, and potentially Leighton Vander Esch, whose fifth-year option the club has yet to exercise.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL