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Former NFL scout feels Penn State LB Micah Parsons is an explosive underachiever

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Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is one of the most athletic players in the NFL Draft but is an underachiever? Former NFL scout Daniel Kelly breaks down his film.

Scouting Report: LB Micah Parsons 6’3” 245 (Penn State) Ran a reported 4.39 40-yard-dash

Film Exposure: (2019) Michigan, Minnesota, Memphis, Iowa and Ohio State.

Explosive run and hit freelance linebacker with outstanding athletic ability, fast playing speed, but he takes too many plays off. Lacks motor. Disappears on tape for too long of periods of time. However, when he decides to play he is a force to be reckoned with. He is scary fast for a linebacker when he turns it on. Opt-out 2020. 


Micah Parsons is at his best against the run when he is left clean and he can shoot in, slice in from the side unblocked, or slide through the trash to make high-impact wrapping tackles. Not a sure tackler. Can miss some he should have had. He is not explosive at the point of attack against blockers. He is capable and shows he is capable of fighting through blocks, but often chooses not to. Soft at the point of attack most of the time. He can get taken out and corner hooked out way too easily. Low fight and compete most of the time. Inconsistent usage of hands at the point of attack. Did show he can power through a fullback with a shoulder and make a tackle. At times he can look slow reading and diagnosing and because he looks to avoid blockers he can almost look to take himself out of the play before sometimes recovering enough to get involved. Lacks instincts inside. If he is unchallenged he can penetrate inward to make solid strong wrapping tackles. Best productivity comes when he is minimally challenged or not challenged at all. Chases and tracks it down well in space when he wants to. Can fly around from sideline to sideline. 

Parsons has great range and he can run in pass coverage. Elite pass coverage ability. He looks like a safety in coverage and he can easily match tight ends and running backs on routes and stay tight. Really excels in coverage. Has the kind of athleticism where he can defend passes. Can make a play on the ball. Play-maker in coverage. 

Parsons is active as a blitzing linebacker off the edge or through interior gaps. Lightening fast looking off the edge. Again, he is best if he is left clean. He does not blow up any blockers at the point of attack and tends to get washed to wherever the blocker wishes to take him when he is engaged. Has elite speed and burst into the pocket. He can explode in the pocket. Parsons is what I call a “pocket wrecker,” when everything lines up just right for him. Can close in a hurry. Can really spring into the pocket. Impressive at times. Excellent on delayed blitzes and has the speed to make some noise in those situations. 

There is no question Parsons has an elite ability that he flashes from time to time. He just disappears for too long of periods of time on film and looks like a different player. He can really disappoint at times because you know it is in him to do better. He is an elite force when he is on. Great highlight type of player. The Ohio State game was a huge concern for me. He spent most of the game easily blocked, washed out and he showed a really low motor on active plays. Parsons is the type of player who has all the measurables and he will shine in the drills, but the film and his full body of work is a huge concern for me. No question, he has what it takes when he decides to play. No question, he has a dynamic ability. No question, it is in him. He just has to be kept clean in order to make plays and he has to want it. That is the bottom line on Parsons. Shows some emotion at times. There is a lot to love. There is also a lot to break your heart. Seemed to take about half the plays off in the five games. 

Micah Parsons ran a 4.39 forty yard dash at his pro day. Is he an underachiever?

Daniel Kelly’s Draft Board: I would not have him on my draft board because of the underachieving. I cannot have that on my team. From a league standpoint, he is first round (15-32). He has first-round athletic ability and speed. 

Probability of being a bust: High probability (75% chance) nothing scares me more than a player who only plays when he feels like it. 

If I were a GM, this is the question I need to be answered in my mind about Micah Parsons: I would need to hear the story from him about the alleged fight between him and Isaiah Humphries in 2020. I need to know about when he transferred from another school after he was accused of inciting a riot. I need to know about the history he has on social media causing controversy. There are serious questions swirling around his character. 

My Top 6 concerns about Parsons: 

  1. His decision not to take on and beat blocks.
  2. Takes way too many plays off. Dogs it too often. 
  3. Lack of instincts on inside runs when keying and diagnosing.
  4. Relies too heavily on God-given abilities.
  5. Leadership.
  6. The off-field stuff is well-documented.

How NFL offenses will beat him: Run right at him and get a hat on him. When he is lined up on the edge in pass-rush situations motion a tight-end to his side to block him. Tight ends can handle him. He is toast most of the time if he gets blocked. Does not show a lot of fight in those situations. 

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, and Dick Haley. He currently writes for Sports Illustrated Detroit Lions and he is a contributing evaluator for Draft Diamonds. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. He can be followed on Twitter @danielkellybook and his Facebook page is WHATEVER IT TAKES NFL TALK. 

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