By: Andy Martinez
As anticipated by many, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons experienced a slight drop in this year’s NFL draft. Selected by the Dallas Cowboys at No. 12, Parsons saw two lockdown corners, Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II, have their names called at the podium just a few minutes before his.
However, despite not being the first defensive player taken in this year’s draft, Micah Parsons is still the favorite to win this upcoming season’s ‘Defensive Rookie of the Year’ award.
Parsons is a freak of nature at his position. The 6’3 linebacker weighs in at 246 pounds with a 40-yard dash time of 4.39 seconds. Parsons’ ability to rush the passer while also dropping into coverage against running backs and tight ends when needed, makes him a versatile defender built to withstand the modern NFL offense.
Leave no doubt, Parsons is the best linebacker to come out of this year’s NFL draft class. Off-field issues are believed to be the main reason for his small drop down draft boards. Even so, Parsons remained atop the linebacker rankings and ultimately was the first one to come off the board.
But in the NFL, talent alone can only get you so far. Football is a team sport and a good supporting cast always increases the chances of earning individual accolades. That is another reason why Parsons is the front runner for the award.
Despite a disastrous year in 2020, the Cowboys are a team that is set to drastically improve this upcoming season. Aside from the return of their franchise quarterback Dak Prescott, the Cowboys also hired a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn with hopes to rebuild their entire defensive unit. Additionally, the team double downed by going defense with their first six selections in this year’s draft.
In Dan Quinn’s two seasons as defensive coordinator, he held the No. 1 defense in yards and points allowed. Granted, it was with the Seattle Seahawks’ Legion of Boom, but with the offense returning at full-strength, even a ‘middle of the pack’ defense would suffice.
The expectation is that Micah Parsons will play plenty and often. With the team declining Vander Esch’s fifth-year option, Parsons will likely get the opportunity to start in a new and revitalized defense.
So, what is difference does having a stronger team do for someone who’s in the running for the ‘DROY’ award?
Take Jaycee Horn for example, who was drafted ahead of Parsons at No. 8 to the Carolina Panthers. Horn was the first defensive player taken off the board, yet he lies at No. 7 on the list of odds to receive the award. This is because the Panthers’ offense doesn’t appear to be anywhere near as good as the Cowboys’. It’s likely we will see Horn out on the field more often than Parsons. However, Horn’s play will be much more conservative and limit his impact as an individual on the team. On the other hand, Parsons will have opportunity for more aggressive play, adding to his case and consequently his odds for the award.
Finally, name recognition will do wonders for Micah Parsons in his race for ‘DROY’. Being drafted high in the draft has its perks, media and national attention. Should Parsons live up to the hype, the award will be easier to come by. If he cannot, he could see himself slip out contention and into a world of harsh critics.