NFL Hot Press: Character Concerns Hurting Parsons

Character Concerns Hurting Parsons

Updated Feb. 23, 2021
By Charlie Campbell. Follow Charlie on Twitter @draftcampbell.

The 2021 NFL Draft is not especially strong for defensive front seven talent, but Penn State’s Micah Parson is one of the prospects with a first-round skill set for any draft class. The 6-foot-3, 245-pounder has excellent size alongside speed and athleticism. Parsons sat out the 2020 pandemic season after serving as a 2-year starter since being a top recruit coming out of high school. While Parsons was projected to be the top linebacker for the 2021 NFL Draft, he carries significant character concerns that could cause him to suffer a significant first-round slide, according to multiple teams, and some teams may remove him from their boards because of the character issue.

Part of the character content is public knowledge. A former teammate of Parsons has sued Penn State for hazing, and Parsons was prominently and repeatedly named in that lawsuit for administering physical, verbal and emotional abuse on his teammate. Aside from that issue, team sources say they have concerns about other parts of Parsons’ makeup, football character, and off-the-field conduct.

On the field, multiple team sources say Parsons is not as good of a player as other recent top-10 linebackers like Tampa Bay’s Devin White or Chicago’s Roquan Smith. Here’s what one director of college scouting said about Parsons, “He’s very overrated to me. He doesn’t play downhill, is not physical taking on [blocks], is a clean-air guy, and his instincts don’t jump out. He is a freak athlete that can rush the passer. Someone will probably take him early, but I would scratch him from top-10 consideration.”

Another aspect of the pandemic year is more difficulty for prospects with character concerns helping to alleviate those concerns before the 2021 NFL Draft. The combine and pre-draft visits were canceled by the league, so limited video conferencing is the only outlet Parsons has to try to dispel the character concerns directly. Parsons has a great skill set, but his character issues could cause him to slide in the 2021 NFL Draft.