Looking ahead: Micah Parsons is (potentially) the best linebacker prospect since Luke Kuechly


Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Penn State Nittany Lions have a dominant player at linebacker.

Over the years, the Penn State program has produced All-American linebackers such as LaVar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, Shane Conlan, Jack Ham and Dan Connor as well as other notable NFL talents like Sean Lee, Brandon Short and others. The program is safely in the running for “LBU,” yet it’s reasonable to suggest that current talent Micah Parsons has the potential to be the best of them all. In fact, Parsons is capable of becoming the best linebacker prospect to enter the NFL Draft since Luke Kuechly.

Parsons became the first sophomore to ever win Big 10 linebacker of the year last season, a year in which he was the highest graded run defender in the country according to Pro Football Focus. At just 20 years old, he was named first-team AP All-American and Cotton Bowl MVP.

Parsons posted 109 total tackles last season, to go along with five sacks, five passes defended and four forced fumbles. In five of Penn State’s biggest games (Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Memphis), Parsons had 61 total tackles, three sacks and three forced fumbles.

Looking at Parsons’ film, he has a three-down game that will translate to the NFL when he likely declares in 2021. Against runs to the outside, Parsons basically has a GPS tracker hooked up to the football and the speed to chase it down. His range is essentially unlimited with his length at 6-3 and easy acceleration.

Equally as impressive as his ability to scrape laterally is how Parsons deal with blocks in close quarters. When the offensive play develops and blockers work their way towards him, Parsons does a great job of fending off contact with his forearm. This allows him to maintain his gap integrity, keeping his momentum into contact and wrapping up ball carriers.

I’ve seen this technique called the “Gladiator,” as the forearm acts as a shield from the blocker. While it keeps half of the body free to disengage, it’s a technique that takes freak athleticism in order to pull off with consistency because it allows for an easier bounce to a different gap. Regardless, Parsons’ size allows him to corral ball carriers even when they attempt to change gaps.

While Parsons is obviously talented when tasked with stopping the run, he has equal value against the passing game. Parsons’ ability to blitz the pocket is special on all accounts. He can time up the snap count to come free through a gap, stay tight on stunts to beat offensive linemen, fight through pass sets or redirect to close on the quarterback.

When he gets the quarterback in his grasp, Parsons will look to force a turnover. Parsons has a rare combination of athleticism and power for the position, but his technique on blitzes is equally as special.

Parsons’ ability on passing down isn’t limited to blitzing, as the 244-pounder is more than capable in coverage. He can match tight ends up the seam as well as stay disciplined in his zone responsibility. One aspect of his coverage that is impressive is his patience, as he won’t open the gate early and has the quickness to close space in a hurry.

While defending Memphis’ Antonio Gibson, a potential top-100 pick who played both running back and wide receiver, Parsons stayed patient through the break and beat Gibson to the catch point for the pass breakup.

Parsons has elite traits for a linebacker from a size and athleticism perspective, but what makes him so intriguing is his instincts for the position. He has the versatility to take reps and thrive at stand-up linebacker, edge rusher and the overhang. Parsons has the potential to be the best linebacker prospect in years, and will be an early favorite for a top pick in 2021. With his production, traits shown on film and continued development from his time as a top five overall recruit, Parsons has the makings of a future All-Pro in the NFL.