Dallas Cowboys 2021 Rookie Class Rated Best in the NFC by NFL.com

Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys | Image by @dallascowboys on Twitter

The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2021 NFL draft in need of players for nearly every position. Following a disastrous 2020 campaign that saw devastating injuries and a lack of production on both sides of the ball, many people speculated the Cowboys would target a cornerback in the first round to play opposite of Trevon Diggs, then turn to other options, including help at safety, linebacker, and defensive end.

Instead, the Cowboys took linebacker Micah Parsons in the first round, a move that raised eyebrows in many corners of the speculative circle that surrounds the NFL draft every year. Parsons had big question marks about his character, his drive to play the game, and whether the Cowboys even needed to address the position.

Looking back on the pick, many of the concerns about Parsons seem almost comical today. Parsons emerged as one of the most dominant players in the entire NFL in his rookie season and was a serious contender for both Defensive rookie of the Year (which he won) and Defensive Player of the Year (which he did not). Only one player in NFL history had ever managed to win both honors, and the fact that Parsons’ name was even in the discussion illustrates the impact he had on the Dallas defense.

NFL.com staff writer Nick Shook released his 2021 draft grades on February 21, and the Dallas Cowboys earned the highest grade of any team in the NFC with an A-. Parsons was a big part of the reason Shook graded the class as high as he did.

“Dallas hit a 450-foot home run with its selection of Parsons, going best player available over clear need at 12th overall and reaping the rewards,” Shook wrote. “Most of Dallas’ positive grade is built on the massive success of the Parsons pick, as it’s more of a ‘B’ class without the star linebacker.”

News broke this week that Parsons’ level of performance was high enough to, not only win awards, but also be selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie while playing through a lingering knee injury. Parsons hyperextended his knee in a preseason scrimmage against the Los Angeles Rams on August 7, but did not miss time either in practice or on the field as a result of the injury.

“It was at a point where I was like, ‘I’m in a position battle. I’m going against Jaylon [Smith]. The first game is coming up soon.’ I was like, ‘This is the worst time for this to happen,'” Parsons said in an interview with the Bleacher Report. “It’s something that just kept lingering. When you hyperextend something, it needs rest. But I was like, ‘I can’t take no rest.’ The whole season I kept rehabbing, rehabbing, rehabbing, so that way I could play in the games.”

Though Parsons’ contribution both at linebacker and while filling in at defensive end gave the Cowboys nearly endless reels of highlight film, nearly every player drafted in 2021 made at least some contribution to the team in 2021.

The Cowboys’ top-five draft picks all played in double-digit games last season, with Parsons getting the most action at 16 games started. Parsons missed the season-finale game due to a positive Covid-19 test.

The Cowboys’ other draft picks for 2021 include Kelvin Joseph, CB, 10 games/2 starts, Osa Odighizuwa, DT, 16 games/12 starts, Chauncey Golston, DE, 15 games/0 starts, Nahshon Wright, CB, 13 games/1 start, Jabril Cox, LB, 7 games/0 starts, Josh Ball, OT, 0 games, Simi Fehoko, WR, 5 games/0 starts, Quinton Bohanna, DT, 14 games/1 start, Israel Mukuamu, S, 4 games/0 starts, and Matt Farniok, OG, 12 games/0 starts.

The Cowboys’ draft success in 2021 was a primary reason the team reversed its fortunes from the disastrous 2020 season and gave the team an opportunity to win the NFC East division and make a run at the playoffs. The disappointment of an early-round exit does little to tarnish the reality of how impactful the Cowboys’ draft selections for 2021 were and the promise of high-level skilled players for years to come.

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