Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons and Purdue wide receiver Rondale Moore, two of the top players in the Big Ten Conference, announced opt outs for the 2020 college season on Thursday. Both cited concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic and intend to enter the 2021 NFL Draft as underclassmen.
Parsons, one of college football's elite defenders as the 2019 Big Ten Linebacker of the Year, announced his plans in an Instagram video:
"As I considered all my options for a 2020 season, I decided I needed to make a choice -- not for myself, but my son and those dearest to me," Parsons said in the video, which dropped two days after Yahoo Sports reported the linebacker was expected to opt out. "While I felt safe with the health and safety standards as we returned to Penn State for workouts, the potential risk to the health and well-being of my son far outweighed my urge to play football this season. Therefore, I decided to opt out of the 2020 season and prepare for the 2021 NFL draft. I will be graduating early and receiving my degree in December."
Moore made his intentions known via Twitter:
Parsons was a consensus All-American and Butkus Award finalist last year as a sophomore. He led the Nittany Lions with 109 tackles, while racking up 14 tackles for loss, five sacks, five passes defensed and four forced fumbles. At 6-foot-3, 244 pounds (per school measurements), he can play inside or outside and has third-down value as either a pass rusher or coverage player. NFL.com draft analyst and former scout Daniel Jeremiah placed a preliminary grade on Parsons that is higher than any of the three off-ball linebackers selected in the first round of the 2020 draft (Kenneth Murray, Patrick Queen and Jordyn Brooks). Jeremiah compared Parsons to Cowboys Pro Bowler Jaylon Smith.
Moore became the first true freshman to win the Paul Hornung Award as college football's most versatile player in 2018. He broke multiple Purdue offensive records that season on the way to amassing 114 receptions for 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also rushed for 213 yards, returned kickoffs (662 yards) and punts (82 yards).
"Given the unprecedented circumstances we are currently living in, the best choice for my family and I is to opt out of the upcoming season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft," Moore stated in his Tweet.
Last season, Moore was limited to just four games by a hamstring injury, which means NFL scouts will have to rely heavily on tape from his freshman season in evaluating him for the 2021 draft.
Uncertainty about player safety due to coronavirus -- and the resulting tenuous nature of a college season that already has seen most non-conference games canceled at the Power Five level -- has created an environment ripe for opt-outs by top players. Among five top draft prospects to opt out so far, Moore is the first who did not enjoy an outstanding 2019 campaign. Along with Parsons and Moore, Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley, Minnesota WR Rashod Bateman and Miami DE Greg Rousseau have opted out of the college season.