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Cowboys eventually find their man for the defense in LB Micah Parsons

After their top targets left the board, the Dallas Cowboys dropped back before grabbing Penn St. linebacker Micah Parsons with their 1st round pick at the NFL Draft.

DALLAS — After months of speculating, and with all the educated guessing as to who the Dallas Cowboys would take with the 10th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the team ultimately never made a pick at that spot. 

After their top targeted cornerbacks were selected before their pick, Dallas opted to drop back out of No. 10 by trading with the rival Philadelphia Eagles for the No. 12 overall selection. With the 12th pick, the Cowboys selected Micah Parsons, a talented linebacker out of Penn State. 

In Parsons, Dallas gets the help on the defensive side of the ball that they desperately needed after having one of the worst units in football last year. The Cowboys ranked next to last against the run last season and Parsons will provide an immediate assist on that front.

The Cowboys were rumored to be interested in one of the top cornerbacks in the draft, but when Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II went at picks eight and nine respectively, Dallas scrambled to make a move. In a rare trade with the Eagles, the Cowboys picked up an extra third-round selection (84th overall), to move back just two spots. 

When the team was back on the clock at pick No. 12, the options for the Cowboys were similar. The choice seemed to come down to offensive lineman Rashawn Slater out of Northwestern or the linebacker Parsons.

The team went with the defensive help, as expected. 

RELATED: Cowboys trade 10th pick to Eagles; select Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons in the 2021 NFL Draft

Parsons opted out of the 2020 season for the Nittany Lions but was one of the best defensive players in college football in 2019. Parsons has the size, speed, and athleticism to chase ball carriers from sideline to sideline. 

With the Cowboys short on linebackers – perhaps even more so after the recent retirement of stalwart Sean Lee – Parsons made sense. He was the best LB in the draft and with Leighton Vander Esch struggling to stay healthy in his first three years in the NFL, Parsons covers the Cowboys in case Vander Esch gets hurt again. 

Parsons now enters a LB room with Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith to make for a young, athletic trio. The Cowboys also brought in former full time safety Keanu Neal to play a hybrid role for the defense. That makes a strong foursome for a defense that routinely struggled to keep good players on the field at the position. 

The addition of Parsons makes it highly unlikely that the Cowboys will pick up the fifth year option on Vander Esch. Vander Esch could now be playing for his next contract in the upcoming season with Parsons here as a possible long term replacement.

Parsons is a thumper in the run game and is a great blitzer, registering five sacks in his sophomore season at Penn St. Where Parsons struggles is in coverage, which is an issue in today’s NFL. He has also had discipline and character issues in college, where he was the subject of a hazing scandal, allegedly harassing teammates.

This pick will be talked about for who the Cowboys ultimately passed on, and for the trade with a division rival, as much as it will be about Parsons. The Cowboys handed the Eagles a Heisman Trophy winning weapon in Devonta Smith, a player they will now face twice a year. After missing out on the cornerbacks, that’s not an ideal situation.

Dallas also sidestepped a player in Slater who could’ve anchored the offensive line for years to come.

There is no question that the Cowboys needed help for the defense and Parsons should be a big part in rebuilding that side of the ball. The selection protects against injury and the talent level brings a player who could impact as a two-down LB. 

If Parsons can improve his coverage skills, the Cowboys look like they’ve landed a player with Pro Bowl potential and they were able to accrue an extra third-round pick in the process.

Are you satisfied with how things played out for the Cowboys to land Micah Parsons with their first round pick? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi

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