Career Recap: One of the rare things to hear in college football is Nick Saban and Alabama losing out on a player that they really want. Well that was the case with Micah Parsons, who the Crimson Tide wanted patrolling the middle of their defense, but Parsons decided to sign with James Franklin's Nittany Lions. Quickly at Happy Valley, Parsons established himself as a starter in 2018, and he led the team in tackles as a freshman. That season, he totaled 83 tackles with five for a loss, 1.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. Parsons was even better in 2019, totaling 109 tackles with five sacks, four forced fumbles and five passes defended.
2020 Season Outlook: Penn State's schedule sets up well for Parsons to produce another good tackle total, as he will face a lot ground-based offenses in 2020. The junior's best test and most important tape will be when he takes on Ohio State and its uber-talented offense, which will place a lot of skill-position players, including quarterback Justin Fields, high in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Skill-Set Summary: Parsons really jumps out when watching Penn State, as he makes a lot of big plays for the defense with clutch stops and causes a lot of disruption for the offense. Parsons has good size and strength to go along with his speed and athleticism. From a skill-set perspective, he is in the same league as other recent first-round linebackers like Devin White or Roquan Smith. Parsons is a do-it-all defender and a big presence in the middle of the field.
In the passing-driven NFL, a linebacker has to be a good player in coverage in order to be a first-round pick, and Parsons has three-down-starter potential because of his ability to defend against the pass. He is very good in zone coverage, covering a lot of ground in the middle of the field and covering the flat sideline-to-sideline. On top of being a functional zone linebacker, Parsons has blitzing ability. He closes on the quarterback in a hurry and uses his vision and agility to dart through openings in the line to get pressure in the pocket. Parsons will be a nice linebacker in a blitzing scheme or for playing a lot of zone, like a Tampa 2 defense.
Parsons has the physical skill set to cover tight ends in man coverage. With his size and strength, tight ends can't push him around, and he has the speed to run with them down the seam. It will be interesting to see if takes on that assignment much as a junior, but that is something that could be developed as he gains experience at the pro level.
Parsons is a tough run defender who has instincts and read-and-react ability. He does a very nice job of reading his keys and then firing to the ball to limit runs. Often, you see Parsons quickly diagnosis a play and dart behind the line to start a tackle for a loss. With his closing speed and strength, Parsons can pack a punch on ball-carriers when he comes downhill. Parsons is fast to the perimeter to shut down runs in the flat and is a good tackler who is reliable to get backs to the ground. Thanks to hi athleticism and agility, Parsons has plus change-of-direction skills as well.
As a junior, it would be good to see Parsons improve his ability to take on and shed blocks in the tackle box. He sometimes tries to run around blocks. and that is something he will improve upon as he gains experience.
Parsons looks like a versatile linebacker who could play on the inside of a 3-4 defense in the NFL. He also would fit well in a 4-3 defense as a Mike - middle - linebacker, or he could play Will - weak side - linebacker in that scheme. Parsons should be versatile chess piece for his pro defensive coordinator and a solution to a variety of assignments.
2021 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2020 season, Parsons looks like a future first-rounder with the potential to be a top-16 pick.