Micah Parsons did not play a down of football last fall, opting out of the college season due to the coronavirus pandemic. And the Penn State linebacker looked none the worse for his decision on Thursday.
Parsons had an impressive showing at Penn State’s pro day, running a 4.39-second 40-yard dash in a time provided by the school. Just two linebackers, Isaiah Simmons and Shaquem Griffin, have posted sub-4.4-second 40s in the past 10 years at the NFL combine.
After the workout, Parsons staked his claim to being the best defensive player in next month’s NFL draft.
“I just feel like I’m the most versatile player in this class,” he said. “I can play middle linebacker, I can play outside and I can pass rush. I don’t think there’s no place I can’t play in the linebacker spot.”
Whether that’s enough for him to follow in Simmons’ footsteps as a top-10 pick remains to be seen, but Parsons is the defensive player most likely to interest the Detroit Lions in the top 10.
The Lions signed Alex Anzalone to a one-year contract Wednesday to pair with Jamie Collins as a starter, but have little depth at the position.
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In 2019, Parsons was one of the most dominant players in the Big Ten, posting 109 tackles, including 14 for loss, and five sacks.
At 6 feet 3 and 246 pounds, he projects as an off-the-ball linebacker in the NFL but said teams have talked about using him in a multitude of ways.
“I played D-end growing up and pretty much my whole life, so rushing the passer has never been a problem and obviously what I showed at Penn State going sideline to sideline has never been a problem,” Parsons said. “A lot of teams have been talking about first and second down having me go sideline to sideline, third down having me go get the quarterback so I think I’m going to walk into a great position.”
Parsons said he has spoken with the Lions “a couple times” during the pre-draft process, including Thursday with head coach Dan Campbell.
He has to assuage off-field concerns some teams have after he was accused in a hazing incident by a former teammate in 2018 — Parsons is not a named party in a lawsuit that is making its way through a Pennsylvania court — and transferred high schools amid allegations he tried to incite a riot over a racist social media post.
“Obviously, people have concerns about things that came up, but at the end of the day I believe that I was a kid. I was 17, 18. We all made mistakes when we were 17, 18,” Parsons said. “I’m not going to let it control and dictate the person I am now. I’m not gonna let something that was three or four years (ago) dictate who I’m becoming and the father I want to be. … If someone’s going to judge me over that, I’d rather not be in their program. I know what type of person I’m becoming, I know what type of father I’m becoming and that’s all that matters to me, so anybody who’s willing to accept my wrongs when I was wrong and accept my rights when I was right, I’m ready to go in and give it my all.”
But NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said Parsons has “the ability to do everything” as a player.
“As impressive as his range and instincts are against the run, to me it’s what he does in coverage,” Jeremiah said. “You see him cover tight ends up there at Penn State, you see him cover backs. I would have loved to have seen him this year, but I get it. He put so much good stuff on tape in ’19 that he made the decision that he did. So he would fit in with that versatility that everybody’s looking for.”