We never got to see Micah “The Lion” Parsons run an official 40-yard dash. When the 2021 NFL combine was canceled due to COVID concerns, we were robbed of an opportunity to see several strong prospects like Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Ja’Marr Chase, Patrick Surtain II, and Micah Parsons strut their physical prowess. We were at least given private workouts from a few of the top prospects, but still, the NFL combine would’ve provided a much clearer picture at the speed and other physical aspects of many players.
Parsons is a good example of wanting to see someone perform physically in a controlled, neutral environment. One of his greatest strengths in college was his in-game quickness, but we weren’t sure whether that quickness would translate to being able to keep up with NFL wide receivers as a makeshift slot cornerback. Parsons was a terrific prospect either way, but there were some risks that the Cowboys incurred by drafting him so highly. Of course, there was the aspect of his game I just mentioned, but also the fact that Parson opted out of his junior season at Penn State. Nobody knew whether his body was still in playing shape, thus being able to measure him at the NFL combine would’ve been an enormous blessing for several teams. Sure, we got some glimpses at the 2021 Penn State pro day (and Parsons looked incredible, notching a 4.39 40-yard dash), but that’s a site that Parsons is familiar with, and it wasn’t as closely monitored and regulated as the NFL Combine would’ve been.
Ultimately, the decision to pick Parsons 12th overall paid off enormously for Dallas, as the Penn State product put together one of the most remarkable defensive rookie seasons of all-time. However, I can’t help but think that if the NFL combine had gone on as regularly scheduled, Parsons would’ve never been available at 12. I mean, did you see what he did at the Pro Bowl Skills Challenge?
That’s Parsons winning a race against Tyreek Hill, Nick Chubb, and Trevon Diggs. If that’s not impressive, I don’t know what is.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that Parsons is faster than Hill or Chubb. The Lion was clearly taking this race much more seriously than the Cheetah. Parsons entered the race shirtless — the only person in the competition to do so. Hill was wearing a baggy hoodie and sweatpants. However, Chubb and Diggs both seemingly went all-out as well, even if they kept their shirts on. Sure, Hill might not have taken this competition as seriously as Parsons, but Hill doesn’t seem like the guy who likes to lose races.
Two offseasons ago, Hill was challenged to a race by Hall of Fame receiver Terrell Owens. Owens was 46 years old at the time, and was given a head start. Hill didn’t hold back. He really tried to catch up and almost did by the end of the field. That’s a race that doesn’t mean anything against a way-past-his-prime competitor who was given a head start. Why would he take that more seriously than a competition against other NFLers? Tyreek has always been adamant that he could beat Usain Bolt in a race, and when given a chance to prove to his former teammate Damien Williams that he was much faster, Hill jumped at the opportunity.
He’s clearly not someone who likes to lose (although I doubt any NFL player does), so while Hill was definitely not at his peak during the race, I don’t think he wasn’t at least trying to win it.
All this is to say that while clearly not something that should be the end-all be-all for determining the fastest players in the NFL, imagine what Parsons could’ve done at the combine, an event that several NFL prospects spend months preparing for to impress NFL scouts. Do you still think the Panthers would’ve taken Jaycee Horn at pick eight? I doubt it. The possibility of a pass rush featuring someone with measurables like Parsons’ and Brian Burns would’ve been too much to pass up. Do you think the Broncos still would’ve taken Surtain at nine? Maybe. That’s a tough one. Surtain was phenomenal and was an elite physical specimen for a cornerback.
There’s a good chance that, if Parsons performed similarly at the NFL combine to what he did at the Penn State pro day, he would’ve gone much sooner than he did, and the Pro Bowl race is just another example of what we all would’ve come to expect from Parsons had we all been able to watch him run the 40 on national TV.