The Broncos continued their cross-country pro day scouting schedule on Thursday, as General Manager George Paton led a small team contingent to State College, Pennsylvania to obverse Penn State's workouts for draft-eligible players.
Linebacker Micah Parsons headlined the event, and he didn't disappoint in his performance. In particular, he displayed uncommon speed in the 40-yard dash, clocking in at 4.39 seconds. The 6-foot-3, 246-pound former All-American also recorded 19 bench-press reps at 225 pounds, a 34-inch vertical and a 10-foot-6 broad jump.
Parson's 40-yard dash showing, had it been at the NFL Combine (which was cancelled due to COVID-19 precautions), would have tied 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Simmons for the second-fastest time by a linebacker since 2006.
That was all some onlookers from the NFL needed to see, apparently. Later, as NFL Network's Kim Jones reported, when Parsons slipped some on the turf during the three-cone drill, an unnamed personnel evaluator told Jones that Parsons need not worry about that small gaffe.
"That talent evaluator looked at me and said, 'I want to go out there and tell Micah, Don't do any more of these cones. You ran 4.4 as a Will linebacker. You need to just do the drills. You're having a great day,'" Jones said.
This performance could be a difference-maker for Parsons, as Mel Kiper Jr. wrote in his most recent mock draft for ESPN that Parson's pro-day testing "could make him a top-15 lock."
These results may be particularly meaningful because Parsons hasn't played in a game since 2019, as he chose to opt out from the 2020 season.
During the summer before the season was set to begin, the Big Ten and several other conferences chose to delay the start of their seasons due to the spread of COVID-19, with the Big Ten later deciding on a late-October start. Parsons, instead, decided to focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.
If that left draft evaluators with any concerns about his fitness, the pro day may have resolved those soundly. With an NFL offseason, Parsons said, he expects to have no issue with getting back into game shape before the start of the NFL regular season.
"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 keep getting better and better shape and playing the way I was playing. I think it's going to come over time, but I think by the season I'll be ready."
Come April 29, the first day of the NFL Draft, teams like Denver will likely be in shape to consider Parsons for their defense. His pitch is simple: He can do a lot of things at a high level from various spots in a defensive front.
"I just feel like I'm the most versatile player in this class," Parsons said. "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 a linebacker spot or whether it's being on the field, utilizing my skills. I'm going to just make plays happen."
That versatility proved impressive during his two seasons at Penn State. In his sophomore season, Parson's final year at Penn State, he racked up 109 total tackles, including 14 for loss, five sacks, five passes defensed, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. That effort earned him consensus All-America honors, and he was picked as the Big Ten's Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year.
"He is quick to key/read before attacking the line of scrimmage," NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah wrote in ranking him as the 10th-best overall prospect for the upcoming Draft. "He can defeat blocks with his hands or use his quickness to slip past them. He has the speed to make plays sideline to sideline, although there were a few occasions where he overran the football in the games I studied. He also had some issues sniffing out the ball on zone reads. He's very gifted in coverage versus tight ends and running backs. He has timing and burst as a blitzer off the edge.
"Overall, there aren't many holes in Parsons' game. It's difficult to find linebackers with his size and ability to impact the passing game.
During his media session, he said that he had met with "pretty much every team," though Denver was not among the handful of teams that he singled out from his recollection.