Cowboys select Penn State LB Micah Parsons at No. 12 after trading back in NFL draft
FRISCO, Texas — When Sean Lee retired this week after 11 seasons in the NFL, Cowboys brass emphasized: They’re looking for their next Sean Lee.
Apparently, they weren’t joking. With the 12th overall selection of the 2011 NFL draft, the Cowboys selected a player at the identical position and alma mater in Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.
Dallas will hope Parsons can bolster a defense that ranked second-worst against the run in 2020.
The pick didn’t come without a little bit of wheeling and dealing. Jerry Jones had warned that holding the esteemed 10th pick of the draft could yield an “unconventional” move.
Does a trade within the division count that?
With coveted corners Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II flying off the board at 8 and 9, Dallas swapped first-round picks with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys, in moving down two slots, picked up the Eagles’ third-round selection (No. 84 overall).
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Mike McCarthy sought speed and ball skills in a defender. Speed? The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Parsons clocked a 4.39 40-yard dash at Penn State's pro day last month. Ball skills? In two seasons at Penn State, Parsons notched 109 tackles, 6.5 sacks and six forced fumbles—four of them in 2019 alone.
“I’m very focused on the ability to make plays on the ball,” McCarthy said. “The ball skill grade is something that we pay close attention to, because it’s about the football. Turnover differential is the most important focus of our football team outside of winning the game."
Parsons opted out of the 2020 NFL season after a consensus All-American campaign in 2019 during which he notched 10 tackles in six of his final seven games. In a bowl game performance against Memphis, Parsons exploded for 14 tackles, including two sacks. The site of the game: AT&T Stadium, now Parsons' home.
The Cowboys last selected a linebacker in the first round in 2018. Leighton Vander Esch flashed as a rookie but has since struggled with health issues. Parsons joins Vander Esch, Jaylon Smith and free-agent acquisition Keanu Neal in the linebacker room under coordinator Dan Quinn.
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