Positional value is often discussed regarding prospects in the NFL draft. But the Dallas Cowboys are dealing with similar questions about 2021 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year Micah Parsons.
During his rookie campaign, Parsons filled in at defensive end when injuries struck. He dominated after the move. From there, the process follows that the Cowboys -- with a need at edge rusher with Randy Gregory signing in Denver -- could move Parsons from linebacker to defensive end permanently and get more value out of the dynamic playmaker.
It's a question Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy understands but disagrees with.
"The people that say, 'Hey, why don't you play him at defensive end?' very fair. That's a very fair question," McCarthy said, via the team's official website. "But we've made it clear: We want him moving around."
Parsons entered the NFL as an off-ball linebacker, and he shined in that role early in the season. Then the Cowboys lined him up at defensive end when Demarcus Lawrence broke his foot and Gregory was out with COVID-19. Parsons shined as an edge rusher, but when Dallas got healthier, the Cowboys moved him to a rover who lined up at linebacker and, at times, edge rusher.
McCarthy believes it's that versatility that makes Parsons dangerous.
"It would be very easy to just line him up at end and play him there every down, but the fact of the matter is he had, what, 13 sacks," the Cowboys coach said. "Seven came from the linebacker position, six from the defensive end position."
As a rookie, Parsons netted 13 sacks and 84 total tackles while being named a first-team All-Pro, a Pro Bowler and the top defensive rookie.
Pass rusher is the premier defensive position, a spot that can disrupt the game more than any other. But McCarthy believes that keeping Parsons as a linebacker and moving him to and fro when the situation dictates makes life more difficult on opponents trying to identify the game-wrecker.
"I know as an offensive guy," he noted, "you're helping me if you can line him up at one position every time."