With the eighth overall selection in the 1998 NFL Draft, the Dallas Cowboys had a chance to land a Hall of Fame wide receiver. Unfortunately, they allowed character concerns to influence their decision and scared themselves away from a player who could have revitalized their aging franchise.
That player was Randy Moss. And while the prospect they selected instead, North Carolina defensive end Greg Ellis, had a solid 12-year NFL career including a Pro Bowl nod in 2007, the regret of not drafting Moss resonates to this day.
Nearly 23 years later and the Moss debacle remains a hard-learned lesson that likely informs draft decisions in Dallas in some small way even today. Anytime a prospect’s stock drops due to off-the-field or character concerns, there has to be a whiff of that draft miss hanging in the air at The Star in Frisco. Are they being too risk-averse?
This year, that player is a Penn State linebacker named Micah Parsons. From allegations of inciting a riot in high school to accusations of hazing that led to a 2020 civil lawsuit according to the New York Post, there’s certainly some risk in drafting a prospect many consider the top defensive player in this upcoming class.
Here’s what Kyle Youmans wrote about the Cowboys’ potential rekindled interest in Parsons during a Draft Show recap he published on DallasCowboys.com last week.
"“Parsons has seen his draft stock slowly slip over the past couple of months after the combination of character concerns and his 2020 opt-out have scouts wondering if he’s worth a top selection. However, an extremely strong pro-day that featured a 4.36 40-yard dash to accompany his 6-foot-3, 246-pound frame, have scouts looking at him again.”"
Obviously, Parson plays linebacker and Moss is a Hall of Fame wide receiver. But character concerns prevented the Cowboys from drafting Moss when they should have. Is Parson destined to suffer the same fate? Will Dallas pass on him only to regret that decision for decades to come?
Perhaps the first question we should be asking is can Dallas use a player like Parsons? In 2019, the sophomore linebacker racked up 109 total tackles, 14.0 tackles for loss, 5.0 sacks, five pass deflections, and four forced fumbles in 13 games. He was an opt-out in 2020.
As for the Cowboys’ linebacker corps, the previous high draft selections of both Jaylon Smith (second round, 2016) and Leighton Vander Esch (first round, 2018) would seem to indicate the Cowboys are set at the position. But concerns about Smith’s declining play and Vander Esch’s injury history have opened the door for someone like Parsons to walk through.
And the fact the Cowboys hired a new defensive coordinator in Dan Quinn this offseason could press the issue. The Dallas brass will certainly want to aid Quinn in his quest to improve a defensive unit that was historically bad at times last season.
If they pass on drafting him, only time will tell if Micah Parsons is destined to be viewed as another Randy Moss miss for the Dallas Cowboys. Certainly, the franchise that made that draft blunder over two decades ago will do their due diligence to try and prevent that from ever happening again. But, at some level, the NFL draft will always be a guessing game.