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Prospect of the week: Micah Parsons the LB Giants fans have been waiting for?

Carl Banks, way back in 1984, was the last linebacker selected in Round 1 by the Giants. Could Parsons be next?

Buffalo v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

This is the time of year when New York Giants fans spend a lot of time — probably too much time — obsessing over the year 1984. The significance of 1984? Giants fans, you know this one. It is, of course, the last time the Giants, once known for their mighty linebacking corps, selected a linebacker in the first round of the NFL draft.

That linebacker, of course, was the great Carl Banks, who helped the Giants win a pair of Super Bowl titles.

In recent years, it has become commonplace for Giants fans to look longingly at the top linebacker prospects and wonder if the Giants would deem one worthy of finally ending this annual quest.

The 2021 NFL Draft will mark the 37th draft since the Giants selected Banks No. 3 overall out of Michigan State. Could this finally be the year the Giants finally give the fan base something many in it have clamored for during the entirety of Big Blue View’s 14-year existence? That, of course, being a first-round linebacker to call their very own.

So, let’s talk about Micah Parsons.

The Penn State star is the best linebacker in this draft class. Many think he is the best defensive player in the draft, period.

The Giants have pick No. 11 in Round 1. There is, truthfully, no way the consensus best defensive player in the draft should be available at No. 11. Yet, that could happen on April 29.

There are as many as five quarterbacks who could be selected in the top 10, provided there are teams who really believe in Trey Lance and Mac Jones. There are as many as four receivers who could go in the top 10. Positional value and team needs might convince teams to take cornerbacks like Patrick Surtain or Caleb Farley, or an offensive lineman like Rashawn Slater rather than Parsons.

So, events in front of them could leave the Giants with the opportunity to end that 36-year drought. Could they? Would they? Should they select a linebacker with the 11th overall pick? Might they be presented with a scenario on the evening of April 29 where it is impossible, a year after not having a shot at Chase Young and despite their offensive deficiencies, not to pick Parsons?

Pro Football Focus calls Parsons “the best linebacker prospect we’ve scouted in seven years of grading college. He can play in any scheme.”

If either Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle or Florida tight end/wide receiver Kyle Pitts is on the board, selecting one of them would be a logical, perfectly understandable choice. Selecting Surtain, Farley or Slater would also be defensible, and would help make the Giants better. It would be hard to label choosing any of them “wrong.”

Would it be wrong to pass on Parsons?

Maybe. Here is more from Pro Football Focus:

There aren’t many linebackers in college football history who can rest on their true sophomore tape and still be a likely top-10 draft pick. That’s how special Parsons was in 2019. He’s got the type of size and skill set that could make him the first edge rusher drafted if he wanted to switch to that position. Parsons destroys blocks and ball carriers. He earned the second-highest run-defense grade we’ve ever given in 2019 (94.8) while also finishing with the third-highest tackling grade in the country (90.0). While we haven’t seen a ton of him in one-on-one coverage, I’m not too worried about the athleticism he shows in space.

Walter Football says Parsons “should be a valuable chess piece for his pro defensive coordinator and a solution to a variety of assignments.”

Here’s more from the Walter Football scouting report:

Parsons really jumps out on tape, as he made a lot of big plays for Penn State with clutch stops and a lot of disruption for the opponent. He has good size and strength to go along with speed and athleticism, and 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 who supplies a big presence in the middle of the field.

Given the passing-driven modern game, a linebacker has to be a good player in coverage in order to be a first-round pick in an NFL draft, and Parsons has three-down starter ability and is an asset for defending the pass. He is very good in zone, 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 brings 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 has the physical skill set to cover tight ends in man coverage. Thanks to his size and strength, tight ends can’t push him around, and he has the speed to run with them down the seam ... Parsons is a tough run defender who demonstrates instinctiveness and read-and-react ability. He does a very nice job of reading his keys and then firing to the ball to limit runs. Parsons will quickly diagnose 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.

If you read our recent Kwity Paye vs. Gregory Rousseau roundtable (and if you haven’t, then you must explain yourself) you know that both Chris Pflum and I believe Parsons is not only the best off-ball linebacker in this draft class, but would be the best edge defender as well.

In that post, Chris wrote that Parsons “has a background as a defensive end and the kind of explosiveness, burst, and bend you need in a pass rusher. Parsons can do so much more than that, but if you’re looking for a defender who can threaten the edge with speed, not need the quarterback to hold the ball for a subjective eternity, and get you off the field on a critical third down, I’d go with Parsons.”

I am always up front that when it comes to talent evaluation I don’t have the scouting chops or Scouting Academy training both Chris and Nick Falato possess. Here, though, are my notes from watching Parsons’ games against Minnesota, Iowa and Buffalo in 2019:

  • Can “stack and shed”
  • Physical at point of attack || Explosive to the ball
  • Sometimes used as OLB, and he’s good out there || Shows awareness in zone coverage
  • Could play full time on the edge
  • Has ability to get thru traffic to make plays vs. run
  • Good pursuit speed
  • Excellent tackler

Could Parsons be the pick at No. 11 even if a player like Waddle or DeVonta Smith is on the board? My guess, before we know anything about how free agency will turn out, is that the Giants would lean toward trying to get a big-time receiving weapon for Daniel Jones. After seeing what adding a player like Stefon Diggs did for Josh Allen with the Buffalo Bills, adding a player with the potential to be a No. 1 receiver should be a Giant priority.

The biggest priority, though, for a team that went 6-10 and has had one winning season in the last eight years has to be adding the best football players, the best playmakers, it can — regardless of position.

If the Giants are sitting at No. 11, Parsons is available, and they judge him to be the best football player they can add to the roster that would not surprise — or bother me — at all.

What about you, Giants fans?

Previous prospects of the week

Quincy Roche. EDGE, Miami
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
Benjamin St-Juste, CB, Minnesota
Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa