2020 NFL Draft Scouting Report: K'Lavon Chaisson
By Charlie Campbell
Summary: While the LSU offense got more attention because of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Joe Burrow, the team's defense was just as loaded with future NFL players, and Chaisson was the best defensive lineman during the Tigers' dream 2019 season. It took some time for Chaisson to emerge at LSU, as he started out with 27 tackles with two sacks and two passes batted during his freshman season. He then missed almost all of the 2018 season with a knee injury. As a junior, he broke out with 60 tackles with 6.5 sacks, a forced fumble, and two passes broken up while dealing with an ankle injury. Chaisson decided to skip his senior year and enter the 2020 NFL Draft.
For today's NFL, Chaisson is a valuable commodity because he is a lightning-fast edge rusher and twitchy athlete. He is quick off the ball, possessing a fast first-step. He has a burst to run around the corner and a second gear to close on the quarterback. On top of being a pure speed rusher, Chaisson has an impressive arsenal of pass-rushing moves. With his wicked spin move, Chaisson is able to get back to the inside, and his loose hips allow him to dip underneath offensive tackles while getting turned to the quarterback. Chaisson has active hands and is able to use them at the same time as his feet. With his dynamic skill set with rare speed off the edge, Chaisson has the potential to be a double-digit sack-producing pass-rusher in the NFL.
One of the impressive aspects of Chaisson's game is his ability to play in coverage. LSU lined him up at a variety of places in 2019, and he showed rare speed and athleticism to run with receivers in the flat and tight ends off the edge. Chaisson is a fluid athlete in the open field with serious foot speed to stay with offensive players. While he could use some refinement, Chaisson has more pass-coverage skills than a typical edge defender.
Against the run, Chaisson is good in pursuit, and he makes some big plays by working upfield to cause disruption in the backfield. However being below 260 pounds with a chiseled lean frame, Chaisson can struggle with downhill runs coming straight at him. Offensive tackles can tie him up with their upper body strength and push him back. He needs to get stronger for shedding blocks in the NFL and holding his ground. Given his frame, one has to wonder how much weight he can gain and it that take away some of his rare and special speed. At his weight, he could have a hard time holding up for four quarters. Thus, his run defense is a point of improvement for the next level.
Chaisson would fit best as a 3-4 outside linebacker as a pro. That would be an awesome scheme fit for him because he could rush off the edge and has the ability to cover. Having a 3-4 defensive end next to him would also help protect him in run defense. In a 4-3 scheme, Chaisson is a bit of a tweener between a defensive end and outside linebacker. In that system, his best course of action could be gaining more weight to hold up in run defense and be an every-down defensive end. Being a hybrid linebacker/defensive end might lead to Chaisson not settling in and becoming the pass-rusher he is capable of being - see Barkevious Mingo.
Chaisson is worthy of going in the top 20 of the 2020 NFL Draft and looks like a solid first-round pick.
Player Comparison: Anthony Barr/Whitney Mercilus. In the NFL, I could see Chaisson being a defender similar to Barr if he's in a 4-3 defense. Barr (6-5, 255) is almost identical size to Chaisson and both are impactful edge defenders. Chaisson might have a little more twitch and explosion, while Barr is stronger and tougher in run defense. Barr went in the top 20 of during the 2014 NFL Draft and Chaisson could follow suit this year.
In a 3-4, I could see Chaisson being similar to Mercilus. Mercilus (6-4, 258) is also almost the same size ,and he has been a very reliable defender for Houston since being drafted by Rick Smith and Gary Kubiak in 2012. If Chaisson plays in a 3-4, he could be a versatile and dangerous defender like Mercilus.
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