2020 NFL draft prospects: LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson


Leading up to the 2020 NFL draft, which starts April 23, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five and 10 at a time, followed by in-depth reports on our top 50 players. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III

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More15. LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson

6-foot-3, 254 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.16

TL;DR scouting report: Traits-heavy pass rusher with a pretty versatile skill set, but some projection is required

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit, Chaisson chose the Tigers over Texas and other schools. He played right away, becoming only the eighth LSU player to start the season opener as a true freshman.

Chaisson was expected to be one of the Tigers’ breakout players in 2018, and he looked like the best player on the field in the opener against Miami (Fla.) with five tackles and a sack. But he suffered a torn ACL in that game and was forced to take a redshirt season.

In 2019, Chaisson returned to the field with a repaired knee and a new number — he was awarded LSU’s vaunted No. 18 jersey, along with C  Lloyd Cushenberry, which is given to the players who best represent the program with their character, work ethic and dedication. Chaisson rewarded the eventual national champions with his best season, making 60 tackles (including an SEC-best 13.5 for losses), 6.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Chaisson, who turns 21 years old in July, opted to forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and enter the 2020 NFL draft. He participated in the NFL scouting combine but opted not to work out there.

Upside: Possesses all the physical traits to be a dominant and diverse defender. Great raw athletic traits. Has the juice to rush the edge in the league — outstanding ability to bend and turn the corner. Terrific flexibility and change-of-direction skill — loose hips. Explosive get-off at times — can be seen beating tackles out of their stance (see Georgia game). Lightning-quick feet and fast hands. 

Doesn’t just win with speed around the edge. Converts speed to power better than you’d think. Bull-rushed and hemmed up Mississippi State’s 330-pound tackle, Tyre Phillips, multiple times with success. Hands have potential to be terrific in time — big jump in this area in 2019. Flashes a double-hand swipe that could be a go-to move in time. Also has a swim move that has high potential.

Better run defender than he’s given credit for — extends his arms and locks out blockers. Sets a good edge and keeps his head up. Defends the read-option well. Keeps contain assignments pretty well most times — doesn’t overpursue and freelance willy-nilly.

Very effective interior rusher for his length and lack of pure mass. Flashes an interior spin move that can make offensive linemen look foolish. Terrific on stunts and twists. Watch this snap against Texas where Chaisson wraps around the interior and takes down QB Sam Ehlinger and doesn’t let him get out of his grasp:

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Look how quickly Chaisson gets to the quarterback.

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Watch this dip move by Chaisson against Alabama OT Alex Leatherwood (a possible 2021 first-rounder) to get the pressure and throwaway from Tua Tagovailoa, also drawing a flag on Leatherwood for a personal foul after he was beaten around the edge:

This is a quality tackle Chaisson. got by in a hurry.

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Diverse responsibilities — rushes from two- and three-point stances and stood up as LSU’s “Buck” linebacker. Can drop in coverage and cover some backs and tight ends one-on-one, even on seam and wheel routes. Able to walk out to the slot and cover in short spaces against some receivers. Outstanding run-and-chase ability — caught up to Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb from behind in the Peach Bowl.

Plays hard and competes every snap. Stepped up in big games but made his presence felt in every game he played in 2019. Considered to have good personal and football character — named a team captain as a sophomore. Infectious personality. Worker who sets the tone for his unit. Soaring confidence — plays with an edge and isn’t afraid to let opponents know it. 

Downside: A bit lean and undersized. Could add more mass and upper-body strength. Short arms (32 1/4 inches). Play strength reads as merely average now.

Rarely took over games in college. Production merely average — only 9.5 career sacks in 26 career games. Had 6.5 sacks last season and endured a five-game sack-less streak midseason vs. SEC opponents before heating up down the stretch. One forced fumble and zero recoveries in career. Fewer than 1,200 career snaps on defense total.

Will get too low and lose balance as a rusher — pushed into the dirt more than he should be. Feet can be slowed by his instincts — will get caught looking into the backfield and hesitating while diagnosing the run.

Needs to add tricks to his pass-rush bag — a bit of a 101-level rusher at this stage who has thrived on his athletic traits first. Has all the ability to diversify his attack but isn’t quite there yet. Needs some “Plan B” rushes that aren’t inside counters — when he commits to the edge and is stopped, he rarely has a quality response.

Bit of a drag-down tackler — doesn’t deliver as many punishing hits as you’d ideally like to see. Still limited in zone coverage and might not be best employed in that way other than in spot duty. Asking him to man up on the slot also will have its drawbacks against faster and quicker pass catchers. Will take some false steps in reverse.

Durability must be addressed — suffered a broken collarbone in high school, a torn left ACL in the first game in 2018, plus an ankle injury that slowed him early last season and caused him to miss two games (Northwestern State and Vanderbilt). Flagged for six penalties last season, including two in the national title game.

Best-suited destination: By drafting Chaisson, you’re gambling on greatness. His ceiling as a rusher is high, but the production to this point has been middling. Still, it’s hard to imagine — short of injuries wrecking his career — that Chaisson won’t at least develop into a useful defensive piece, either as a 3-4 linebacker or a down rusher.

Among the teams we believe are interested in his services include the Dallas Cowboys, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants and Tennessee Titans.

Did you know: Chaisson took a year off of football as a sophomore in high school, wanting to focus on basketball. But he attended an LSU football camp as a spectator to support a friend and ended up participating and earning a scholarship offer from the school — before he had ever played a snap of varsity ball.

Chaisson returned to the football field before his junior season and became one of the best players in the state, earning defensive MVP honors in the 2015 state championship that year. But LSU had to fight off Texas for his college services, with Chaisson committing to both schools before settling on the Tigers.

When the two teams met on the field last fall, Chaisson drank water on the Longhorns’ sideline and was accused by their coaches of looking at the sideline and winking before falling to the ground with a (purportedly) fake injury.

They said it: “I could fit in any system. Put a blindfold on me. Throw me in there, and I’m ready to roll.” 

— Chaisson at the combine, on where he fits best in the NFL 

Player comp: He possesses the raw rushing upside of former LSU player Danielle Hunter but also has the potential to develop into a Jamie Collins-ish linebacker.

Expected draft range: Top 20 pick.

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