Micah Parsons’ versatility would fit nicely into Falcons defense

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons discusses his preparation for the NFL draft after his Pro Day Thursday.

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons dropped the mic after his Pro Day on Thursday.

“I just feel like I’m the most versatile player in this class,” Parson said after running the 40-yard dash in a blazing 4.39 seconds. “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 or whether its (defensive) end on the field. I’ll utilize my skills, and I am just going to make plays happen.”

The Falcons hold the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft, which is set for April 29-May 1 in Cleveland.

Parsons is considered the top edge rusher the draft. Only two linebackers, Isaiah Simmons and Shaquem Griffin, have posted sub-4.4-second 40s in the past 10 years at the NFL combine. He also posted a 34-inch vertical jump and lifted 225 pounds 19 times on the bench press.

“You can’t compete with freaks of nature,” Penn State defensive end Shaka Toney said. “I’ve been knowing Micah since he was in high school. I’ve know Jayson Oweh since he was a freshman. They have been doing these things since then.”

Parsons, who did not play last season as he opted out during the coronavirus pandemic, is 6-foot-3 and 246 pounds. He was a tackling machine in 2019 for the Nittany Lions. He had 109 tackles, 14 tackles for losses, five sacks, five pass breakups and four forced fumbles.

After a season off, Parsons believes he can get back into football shape.

“The only way to get in game shape is to actually play in games,” Parsons said. “Once I get down to OTAs and minicamp, I’ll be able to (get in) … better shape and play the way I was playing. I think it’s going to come over time, but I think by the season, I’ll be ready.”

The Falcons aren’t likely to take Parsons with the fourth overall pick, but he’s a player to watch if they trade out of the fourth spot and amass draft picks.

The earliest that Parsons may go is to the Lions at No. 7 or to the Chargers at No. 13.

“I talked to the Lions a couple of times,” Parsons said. “I spoke with the coach (Dan Campbell) again today. We had a great conversation. Honestly, I’ll be blessed to go anywhere.”

The Chargers also are looking for help at linebacker/edge rusher.

“I talked to the Chargers a couple of times over the phone with a Zoom meeting,” Parsons said. “My versatility is going to come in handy. I played (defensive) end growing up, pretty much my whole life. Rushing the passer has never been a problem.”

Parsons believes that NFL teams will try to use him creatively.

“Obviously, what I showed at Penn State going sideline to sideline has never been a problem,” Parsons said. “At lot of teams are talking about on first and second down, I can go sideline to sideline. On third down, I have to go to the quarterback. I think I’m going to walk into a great position.”

Parsons also noted that he talked to the Dolphins, Steelers and Raiders.

“It’s all been good,” Parsons said. “They all pretty much (have) me as a ‘backer.”

Parsons’s versatility is his most impressive trait to the draftniks.

“I think with Parsons, the ability to do everything,” NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “Off the ball you can also rush him a little bit. As impressive as his range and instincts are against the run, to me it’s what he does in coverage. You see him cover tight ends up there at Penn State. You see him cover backs.”

The only question is whether the season off hurt his skills or instincts.

“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,” Jeremiah said. “He would fit in with that versatility that everybody is looking for. But more than anything else, I think with linebackers right now ... I’m looking at guys that can really run and cover, and he can do it.”

Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees has stressed being multiple in their alignments, 3-4, 4-3 defense, with versatile players.

Pees noted that as defensive coordinator his defenses were multiple during his stints with Baltimore (2012-17) and Tennessee (2018-19), while he played more 3-4 while with New England (2006-09).

“Our philosophy is going to be, we’ll be multiple but simple,” Pees said. “Simple on the back end and really multiple up front.”

The Falcons’ new regime has been preaching about family and good character, and Parsons has a few blemishes on his permanent record.

There is the matter of his alleged involvement in an alleged hazing incident by a former teammate in 2018. Parsons is not a named party in the civil lawsuit that’s in the Pennsylvania court system.

He also must address why he transferred high schools after allegedly trying to incite a riot over a racist social-media post.

He didn’t sound contrite when asked about his character.

“Obviously, people have concerns about things that came up back in the day. I believe that I was kid, 17 or 18,” Parsons said, apparently addressing the high school incident. “We all made mistakes when we were 17 or 18. I’m not going to let it control (or) dictate the person that I am now. I’m not going to let something three or four years from now dictate who I’m becoming and the father I want to be. Everyone is going to learn and grow.”

“If someone is going to judge me on 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. ... If it’s going to come down to something I did in high school or something I wish I could change, I can only control what I can control with what I do (moving) forward. That’s what I feel about it.”

Parsons’ issues could be a deal-breaker for the Falcons.

“We are going to assess the personal character and the football character,” Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot said. “Arthur (Smith) has said it a number of times; you want a smart, tough, competitive, football team. When we are talking about situational awareness and critical times at the end of games, the end of halves. So, he wants smart, tough, competitive football players.”

But the Falcons’ pass rush has been so meek, that maybe a reformed Parsons would be a nice fit.

Falcons’ 2021 draft position: Here are the top nine picks in D. Led’s Mock Draft 3.0:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)

2. New York Jets: Zach Wilson, (QB, BYU)

3. Miami Dolphins: Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)

4. Denver Broncos (trade with Falcons): Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

5. Cincinnati Bengals: Penei Sewell (OT, Oregon)

6. Philadelphia Eagles: DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)

7. Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)

8. Carolina Panthers: Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)

9. Falcons (trade with Denver): Micah Parsons, (OLB, Penn State)

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