CBS Sports ranks Micah Parsons NFL’s No. 1 linebacker for 2022

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Chalk up yet another accolade for Cowboys phenom Micah Parsons. The reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year aims to build on his lights-out 2022, and he’ll do so ranked as the top linebacker in the league, according to CBS Sports.

To create the list, Jordan Dajani looked at not only the stats compiled by each player thus far, but also Pro Football Reference/Stathead’s Approximate Value, PFF grades, plus a guess on how the player will perform moving forward.

Parsons comes out on top of the list at his position, landing just ahead of last year’s leader, the Rams’ Bobby Wagner. Indianapolis’s Darius Leonard, San Francisco’s Fred Warner, and Demario Davis of the Saints round out the top five.

Of Parsons, Dajani writes:

“Parsons is versatile, smart, and instinctive. You don’t do what he did in his rookie season if you aren’t a star.”

“The Penn State product ranked No. 6 in the NFL in sacks and No. 8 in total pressures… Versatility is needed at the linebacker position, and his versatility is the reason why Parsons comes in at No. 1 on our list.”

But wait, some eagle-eyed observers may be wondering. What about T.J. Watt, last season’s Defensive Player of the Year? What about Von Miller? Joey Bosa?

Those players, as well as others officially listed as linebackers, actually make a different list entirely. Today’s shapeshifting defenses blur the line more than ever between traditional linebacker and defensive edge rusher, with many players- including Parsons last season- moving back and forth with often-confusing fluidity.

For the purposes of the CBS Sports rankings, “edge defenders include defensive ends and pass-rushing linebackers.” The players are sorted based on where the majority of their snaps were played in 2021; 3-4 pass rushers went with edge-rushing linemen.

Parsons stayed with the linebackers, though Dajani admits:

“We thought about if Parsons should even be included in this list since he played a fair amount of pass-rusher last season, but the bottom line is that Parsons is a great linebacker who can wear several different hats on defense.”

“Parsons actually finished No. 12 among linebackers in 2021 with a PFF coverage grade of 70 in 295 coverage snaps. If you go back and watch him play throughout his rookie season, you’ll not only see a talented pass-rusher, but a good linebacker that can read and react quickly. A defender who can blow up screen plays and make takedowns in the open field.”

That ability to play both linebacker and edge rusher- and do both at an exceptionally high level- was the biggest revelation of the Cowboys’ 2021 season.

And before the team had even packed up their lockers following their wild-card playoff loss to the 49ers, Dallas coaches knew they’d want to try to do more of the same with Parsons in 2022.

“The biggest thing he is going to have to get accustomed to is the changes people make for him,” Mike McCarthy said back in January. “He is a targeting challenge for an offense. That ability to move him around. Any player in this league will attest to this. Once you have success, people will study the film and have a plan for you.”

When you have the target of a No. 1 ranking on your jersey, it becomes even harder to repeat that success.

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