Aqib Talib was the malicious villain who started at cornerback for the Denver Broncos in the famed ‘No Fly Zone' secondary alongside Chris Harris, Jr., T.J. Ward, Darian Stewart, and Bradley Robey. The five-time All-Pro contributed to the unit that earned the Broncos their third Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Carolina Panthers 24-10 in Super Bowl 50.
Talib played four years for the Broncos and played in 58 games, recording 183 tackles (149 solo), 48 passes defended, 11 interceptions, five tackles for a loss, two forced fumbles, and one sack. He scored a whopping six touchdowns.
Talib's colorful personality and salty style of play made him a controversial player, but beloved by fans in the Mile High City. After officially retiring in 2020, Talib appeared in the broadcasting booth last season and hosts a podcast that features guest appearances from former teammates and friends.
Naturally, the always outspoken Texas native didn’t mince words when asked who he feels Broncos' GM George Paton should draft with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft.
"I say if they stay at nine, you complete that defense," Talib told Hall-of-Famer Steve Atwater in last week’s episode of Broncos Weekend. "You just go [Penn State LB Micah] Parson’s right in the middle. I add that linebacker right there to that defense. Because I feel like if I don't get one of the top — really the top three [quarterbacks] — if I don't get [Justin] Fields, [Zach] Wilson or [Trevor] Lawrence, then I don't want to trade up and get them other guys. I'm riding with them three guys. My organization is going to be good with those three guys, so if I can't trade up and get those guys, then I might stay put where I'm at, try to get Parsons, put me a playmaker in the middle. Now I've got a playmaker at every level, you know what I'm saying? A couple of 'em up front, a couple of 'em on the back end."
Although a new first-round quarterback would caffeinate the Denver fan base, Talib’s plan focused on supplementing the defense with the missing ingredient: a generational linebacker. At 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, Parsons is considered to be the premier linebacker in this year’s draft class.
The Nittany Lion was an All-American and the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year in the Big Ten. He’s an extremely athletic and aggressive defender with the ability to cover running backs and tight ends sideline-to-sideline.
Parsons has an exceptional ability to make anticipatory pre-snap reads and demonstrates a willingness to stuff the run and rush the passer. According to Pro Football Focus, Parson’s rare combination of size and speed make him the closest prototypical linebacker since seven-time All-Pro Luke Kuechly out of Boston College in 2012.
In 2008, Talib was drafted 20th overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and played 13 seasons in the NFL. Although he enjoyed a long career in the league, it was not without incident as he ran into his fair share of turmoil both on and off the field. Nonetheless, his intensity and passion for the game was admired and respected by teammates and opponents alike.
Like Talib, Parsons has taken severe criticism regarding his personal character and off-field conduct. Parsons' drama was a result of an alleged hazing incident run amok. Social media is peppered with the judgment that he’s not the type of person that is best suited for the Broncos.
However, I’ve spoken with multiple people in the scouting community who rest assured that Parsons is a no-brainer for any NFL franchise. It should also be noted that he graduated from Penn State as a junior with a bachelor’s degree in Criminology and maintained a 3.0 GPA. There’s zero doubt that Parsons is a legitimate first-round prospect.
Say what you want about Talib, but the man knows defensive football. So, if he’s banging the table for the Broncos to "fulfill their defensive potential,” maybe head coach Vic Fangio is, too.
Follow Luke on Twitter @LukePattersonLP.
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