DFF Draft Coverage: Micah Parsons to the Cowboys

MICAH PARSONS | PENN STATE                  6’3” 246 lbs.                 5/16/1999 (Age 21)

Micah Parsons was drafted 12th overall by the Dallas Cowboys, becoming the first linebacker selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.


Parsons was regarded as a top-ten prospect out of high school across the nation and was honored as the American Family Insurance National Defensive Player of the Year. Although he was not nominally a starter in his first year in Happy Valley, he earned Freshman All-American honors while leading the Nittany Lions in tackles. Parsons took a step forward as a sophomore, earning all-conference honors. 

His playmaking and elite athleticism captured draft scouts’ imagination. Parsons opted out of 2020 over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; however, observers considered him a first-round prospect who had little to gain by playing another year.


At his isolated Pro Day, Micah Parsons measured in at 6’3” and 236 lbs. Parsons put up several elite numbers, including a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, which achieved a ten out of ten in Relative Athletic Score (www.relativeathleticscore.com). In other words, he’s the fastest size-adjusted linebacker in the database dating back to 1987. Parsons also recorded elite numbers in his 3-cone (6.96) and broad jump (10’-6”) for his size. His shuttle and vertical were, well, ordinary. His overall Relative Athletic Score is a 9.59 out of 10.


Rapid Reaction to Draft Capital: Excellent

Rapid Reaction to Landing Spot: Average

Micah Parsons enters a crowded linebacker room in Dallas. Incumbents Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith are household names among IDP fantasy gamers and locked-in football fans alike. Both of the veterans have shown top-end ability at times and posted elite fantasy numbers. In 2020, however, Vander Esch increased skepticism that he could remain healthy and on the field while Jaylon Smith struggled for a second consecutive year in a scheme that asked too much of him in coverage. 

The Cowboys’ selection of Micah Parsons seems almost certainly an example of a team selecting the best player available after getting sniped. Dallas was widely expected to draft Patrick Surtain, Jr., or in consolation, Jaycee Horn. Either cornerback would have helped a secondary that struggled after losing Byron Jones to the Dolphins in free agency a year ago.

Parsons himself is seen as a top-ten talent. His landing spot at twelfth in the 2021 NFL draft might be seen as a slight discount despite the fact that Parsons skipped the 2020 NCAA season and raised character concerns while away from the game. 


The competition for snaps in Dallas’s defense just might scare off some IDP gamers. The Cowboys organization, however, does a poor job hiding its displeasure with its employees. Both Vander Esch and Smith appear certain to be elsewhere in 2022. Given Vander Esch’s size and track record of missing time, he appears to this writer to assume a part-time role vacated by the retired Sean Lee

Micah Parsons should assume a full-time role in new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s defense. His ceiling for tackles in the defense isn’t extraordinarily high for two reasons. First, Quinn’s defense is predominantly a one-gapping defense focused on disruption. Linebackers face traffic at the second level from interior offensive linemen. Second, Parsons is a dangerous blitzer who could be removed from the middle of the defense. These facts make him a slightly better value in leagues that reward big plays. 

Some IDP gamers will be tempted to look down the board for new Washington linebacker Jamin Davis in lieu of Parsons. That would be a mistake. A top-ten talent, Parsons’s floor is much safer than Davis, who rose late in the process in part due to unreasonably lofty athletic testing numbers in Lexington on UK’s pro day. Parsons is a near-lock to be a perennial full-time player in Dallas and has the upside to compete with Devin White and Roquan Smith near the top of IDP ranks if the defensive scheme is eventually suited to his skill set. 

Thank you for tuning in to DFF’s 2021 NFL Draft Coverage! Stay tuned as we break down every fantasy-relevant pick during the draft. Please consider becoming our yearly DFF subscription so we can deliver top-notch analysis and fantasy breakdowns. Our yearly subscription will save you $40 and lead you to fantasy championships.

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