Cowboys trade down, select Penn State LB Micah Parsons with 12th overall pick in 2021 NFL Draft

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2019, file photo, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons (11) laughs on the bench in the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football game against Idaho in State College, Pa. Parsons was selected to The Associated Press preseason All-America first-team, Tuesday, Aug. 25, 2020. Parsons and Oregon tackle Penei Sewell are among 11 players selected who are not slated to play this fall. (AP Photo/Barry Reeger, File) (Barry Reeger, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

CLEVELAND – In the weeks leading up to this year’s NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys had one specific area of need that was easily identifiable: defense.

Last season, the Cowboys posted one of the league’s worst defenses, allowing opponents to rush for over 2,500 yards and pass for over 3,600 yards. The secondary was regularly torched, especially in the red zone, giving up 34 passing touchdowns while only posting 10 interceptions. With that in mind, many draft analysts thought Dallas would select one of the top two cornerbacks available -- South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn or Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II.

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Despite holding the 10th overall pick, Dallas didn’t get the opportunity to draft either of those two players. Horn was taken 8th overall by the Carolina Panthers, while Surtain was selected 9th overall by the Denver Broncos. Instead, the Cowboys decided to trade down with their NFC East division rival Philadelphia Eagles, securing the 12th overall pick and a third-round pick in the process.

With the 12th overall pick, the Cowboys did indeed select a defensive player: Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. The move comes three days after longtime Cowboys stalwart Sean Lee, who also played for the Nittany Lions, announced his retirement from the NFL.

The six-foot three-inch, 246-pound, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native was a top-10 college recruit before he committed to Penn State and ended up winning the American Family Insurance National Defensive Player of the Year award as a senior in high school. In his freshman campaign with the Nittany Lions, Parsons led the team in tackles with 83 and improved upon that output during his sophomore season. That year, he tallied 109 total tackles, 14 of those for a loss and notched five sacks. He opted out of the 2020 college football season due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, but drew plenty of attention for running a 4.39 40-yard dash in this year’s NFL Combine.

Now, the Cowboys get yet another talented linebacker to help out regular contributors Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith.

Dallas has 10 more picks in this year’s draft. They will next pick 44th overall in the second round on Friday night.