Micah Parsons to the Lions comes with one glaring question


From the moment draft season began, the Lions have been linked to Micah Parsons. It makes sense. He's the best linebacker in the draft. He might be the best defensive player, period. The Lions had the worst defense in the NFL last season, and maybe the worst group of linebackers.

So connect the dots: Parsons to the Lions at No. 7.

But it's not that simple. It's never that simple. For one, Parsons likely won't be the top player on Detroit's board after the first six picks, and the club is far too short on talent to start reaching for need. Moreover, Parsons' game presents a glaring question mark -- beyond the fact that he opted out of last season and was only a one-year starter at Penn State.

Audacy Sports NFL insider Brian Baldinger isn't sold on Parsons' instincts, at a position where instincts are vital.

"People want to compare him to (Buccaneers LB) Devin White, I don’t see the comparison at all," Baldinger said Wednesday on the Stoney & Jansen Show. "When Devin White hits people he hurts people. They don’t get away from him. And I’ve seen him cover guys in the slot 30 yards down the field. I know Micah Parsons can run and I know he’s talented, I don’t know if he’s as instinctive as Devin White. That’s the only question I have about him."

There's no doubting Parsons' physical ability. He became the first sophomore in Big Ten history to win the conference's linebacker of the year award when he racked up 109 tackles on one of the best defenses in the country in 2019. He has the athletic potential to be a star in the NFL. The Lions have ached for a playmaker at Parsons' position since injuries ended DeAndre Levy's career.

"But if you don’t have an instinct for the football, if you don’t know where it’s going to go before it’s getting there, then you’re gonna be late to the party," Baldinger said. "And it doesn’t matter really how fast you are if you go the wrong way a lot of times. Going the wrong way, being fast doesn’t help you. I like the talent, I don’t know how instinctive he is. Maybe some people that understand linebackers better than me can tell me that, but I haven’t heard anybody say that. And I just refuse to say that he can be Devin White at this point."

If the Lions trade down, as GM Brad Holmes is reportedly aiming to do, maybe they can get Parsons in the middle of the first round. Better value. But by that point, Detroit might be better off addressing linebacker early in the second round -- especially if it winds up with two second-round picks. The club's own second-rounder is No. 41 overall. Plenty of enticing linebackers will still be on the board.

"A guy like Jamin Davis from Kentucky has really risen quite a bit," Baldinger said. "Probably started off somewhere in the third or fourth round and since the analysts really went to watch him and saw the way he finds the football and all the places he played and how he tested, he’s probably up into the top of the second round right now, right where Detroit will pick. Somewhere around No. 40, that’d be a good pick. I think Chazz Surratt, former quarterback at North Carolina makes a lot of sense. And if you look at Jabril Cox who played at LSU this year but came from North Dakota State, he played really well at LSU."

On the offensive side of the ball, Detroit's most obvious need is at wide receiver. But Baldinger says the Lions should continue building up front. And if Northwestern OL Rashawn Slater is on the board at No. 7, Baldinger, a former NFL offensive lineman himself, says Detroit can't go wrong.

"That guy can be an All-Pro guard, like (Brandon) Scherff is in Washington. I think he’s that type of player," Baldinger said.

He added he'd take Slater over Oregon LT Penei Sewell, widely considered the best offensive lineman in the draft.

"I don’t know. I’m not sold that this guy – people want to make him out be (Hall of Famer) Jonathan Ogden. I don’t see it," Baldinger said. "And neither one of these guys played this year. I don’t know how you get better at left tackle or the offensive line if you’re not playing. That being said, I do like Rashawn Slater a lot. If he was there at No. 7 I don’t think you can go wrong.

"The one thing you know about your quarterback right now is he’s as good as his protection. If Jared Goff isn’t protected he’s going to turn the ball over, he’s going to make some errors. You got a couple of young running backs, I like DeAndre Swift, I’d start to build up front. And as many holes as they have (on defense), this is not a great defensive draft. So Slater would be a guy that I would definitely be interested in, and I think you could plug him and play him."

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