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The Cowboys selected Penn State LB Micah Parsons 12th overall in the 2021 NFL Draft, after a trade down with the Eagles. Before opting out of 2020, Parsons delivered cross-category production for the Nittany Lions. His 2019 stat line included 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 5 pass breakups and 4 forced fumbles. He backed up that college production and tape with stellar athletic testing, including a class-leading 129.6 speed score (on a 4.41-second 40). That’s an even better speed score than Isaiah Simmons or Devin White, who led the past 2 LB classes. Parsons could be an option at any LB spot for the Cowboys. Sean Lee recently retired. Leighton Vander Esch has had neck issues. Even Jaylon Smith has been up and down. We'll see about the specific plan for Parsons, but he looks like a good bet for stat production.

Recent Shark Bites

The Cowboys will "essentially" move LB Micah Parsons to DE starting today against the Chargers, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. The shift comes out of need, as Dallas lost DE Randy Gregory (COVID list) and DE Demarcus Lawrence (foot fracture) over the past week. As a result, LB Leighton Vander Esch "should stay on the field in all packages, along with Keanu Neal," Rapoport reports. Neal could see more snaps at safety this week, with S Donovan Wilson (groin) also out. That would leave more playing time available for Jaylon Smith. Vander Esch played just 22% of defensive snaps in the Week 1 loss to Tampa, while Smith played just 25%. Parsons led the group at 78%, with Neal just 1 snap behind. There will obviously be risk in using any of the Cowboys LBs in IDP lineups for Week 2. But Parsons, Neal and LVE all look usable at varied levels. We'd try to hold off on trusting Smith's snap share for now, as the likely 4th guy in order of playing time here. The move also hurts the IDP upside for Parsons by cutting down on his tackle opportunities. We've adjusted them all in our Week 2 LB rankings.

The Cowboys have started rookie Micah Parsons and converted S Keanu Neal at LB in each of their past 2 preseason games. It looks as though that pair will lead the playing time at the position. Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch did mix in heavily with the 1st-team defense against Houston on Saturday, though. The ascension of the 2 new guys is noteworthy. Smith has been a full-time player and carries 1 of the league's largest cap numbers among off-ball LBs (nearly $10 million), and LVE is a former 1st-round pick who has dealt with injuries the past couple of years. Parsons, of course, arrived in Round 1 of this year's draft. Neal has history with new DC Dan Quinn, having played for him in Atlanta. The exact playing-time breakdown in this crowded corps is likely still working out, so we're wary of over-committing to any Dallas LB in IDP leagues. Parsons looks like the player with the highest upside and makes for a nice LB3 option (if he lasts). Neal could be a worthwhile late flier in deeper drafts. We've updated our projections for the group this week.

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