The names have trickled in over the past week of players opting out of the 2020 season, but none have come close talent-wise to the most recent one. Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons has opted out of football this fall amid COVID-19 concerns and will prepare for next spring’s draft (as first reported by Yahoo Sports' Eric Edholm).
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Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley and Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman are talented players in their own right who have already declared they’re opting out, but neither holds a candle to Parsons nor his situation. Parsons was the leader of a Penn State team that returns a ton of young talent from a season ago and had legitimate Big Ten title hopes.
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While Parsons doesn’t need to play in 2020 to help his draft stock (as you’ll see in a moment), one can’t help but look at this decision and see the possibility of a massive domino effect across college football. One could argue that the only bigger-name prospects on teams with legitimate title hopes would be quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields.
Parsons is that dominant at the linebacker position. His 94.8 run-defense grade last season was the second-best figure we’ve ever seen in a single season. He’s one of the best tacklers in the country, with only 11 misses on 188 attempts in his entire college career. Parsons ranked seventh on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List in 2019 and checked in at 13th this past year. He is quite simply the best linebacker prospect we’ve seen at PFF since we started grading in 2014, and there’s no way Penn State can expect to come close to replacing that kind of player in the middle of its defense.
While Parsons certainly won’t be the last player to opt out of the 2020 college football season, there’s a very good chance he’s the best. He’ll be a top-10 pick no matter what, but I think I speak for everyone — besides Michigan and Ohio State fans — when I say I’ll miss watching him play football this fall.