2021 NFL draft prospects: North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt

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Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt

6-foot-3, 225 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.89 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Rare QB-to-LB convert who brings toughness, athleticism as a fascinating project, but his diagnostic skills at linebacker remain unvarnished

Games watched: Notre Dame (2020), Boston College (2020), Wake Forest (2020), Miami (2020)

The skinny: Surratt was a 4-star Rivals recruit as a dual-threat quarterback and the Parade National Player of the Year in 2016. After redshirting in 2016, Surratt started seven of his nine games at QB for the Heels, completing 107 of 183 passes (58.5 percent) for 1,342 yards with eight touchdowns and three interceptions, also rushing 85 times for 210 yards and five TDs. He played one game in 2018, completing 4 of 10 passes for 10 yards and three picks and nine rushes for 69 yards and a TD.

Prior to the 2019 season (with the arrival of QB Sam Howell), Surratt moved to linebacker and made a huge splash. He was runner-up for ACC Defensive Player of the Year and earned first-team all-conference honors in making 115 tackles (15 for losses), 6.5 sacks, one interception (game-clincher vs. Duke) and three pass breakups in 13 games. As a graduate senior in 2020, Surratt made 91 tackles (7.5 for losses), six sacks, an interception and three pass breakups. He opted out of UNC’s bowl game and attended the Senior Bowl.

Upside: Fits the mold of the modern NFL linebacker — possesses the athleticism, toughness and smarts to be a factor on all three downs. Has good lateral range and closes fast — good burst and quickness. Smooth mover. Covers a lot of grass in zone coverage.

Nice height and length (79-inch wingspan). Put up 27 bench-press reps at the House of Athletes combine. Also ran a 4.64-second 40-yard dash but has been clocked in the 4.5s before.

Hadn’t played linebacker since his freshman year of high school and hadn’t played a full game there since middle school. Stepped in as a starter in his first game in 2019 and racked up 12 tackles, one sack and one pass breakup in 61 snaps vs. South Carolina.

Plays with his hair on fire. Intense competitor who isn’t going to let effort be the reason he fails. You might never know he was a quarterback with the way he competes and grits through his reps. Ball follower who makes a lot of hustle plays downfield to clean up teammates’ mistakes.

Strong nose for the ball — incredible awareness and instincts for having played the position only two-plus years. Racks up stats — eight-plus tackles in 14 of his past 24 games; multiple interceptions, passes defended, forced fumbles and recoveries; plus good pass-rush productivity.

Earned some pass rush wins in one-on-one drills at the Senior Bowl. Has potential to be a good green-dog blitzer — closes quickly and arrives with force. Trucked a few running backs in pass protection. Boston College and Wake Forest games show what he can do as a rusher.

Has shown considerable, tangible, fast growth at linebacker. Past QB experience helps him understand pass-game concepts, routes, protections, etc. Considered studious and determined.

Possesses ideal smarts and traits to be a special teams standout and was a standout on those units, mostly in 2019. Looks like a future personal protector on punt teams — with fake potential as a former dual-threat QB — has kickoff- and punt-coverage skill and would be a "hands team" candidate. Selfless and coachable.

Downside: Still very raw to the position. Spent more time at QB in college than he did linebacker. Still learning how to diagnose and read keys. Taxed when asked to sort through the trash. Takes shaky angles to the ball in pursuit and can overrun plays. Aggressiveness can be used against him with play-action fakes and misdirection.

His high-end tape is marred by technique errors and missteps. His tape is also littered with missed tackles. He showed improvement in that department in 2020, but still doesn’t yet possess NFL-caliber tackling skill and technique. Might need a “redshirt” year on defense before he can receive steady snaps.

Undersized — checked in at the Senior Bowl at a spindly 215 pounds. Leaner frame that might not support more than 230-235 pounds without sacrificing speed and quickness. Arm length (32 inches) is on the shorter side. Small hands (9 inches). Lacks the bulk and strength to thrive amid the big boys full time.

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - OCTOBER 24: Chazz Surratt #21 of the North Carolina Tar Heels surveys the field during their game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Kenan Stadium on October 24, 2020 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Tar Heels won 48-21. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
North Carolina LB Chazz Surratt has come a long way fast after his position switch in 2019. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Unlikely to be a pure stack-and-shed linebacker between the tackles. Might only be a “Will” at the next level. Needs work learning how better to defeat blocks with more than just effort and toughness. Must use his hands better to disengage from bigger, more experienced blockers.

Older prospect — turns 25 in February. Not many prospects have successfully switched from college QB to linebacker.

Best-suited destination: He might need to play “Will” linebacker in the NFL and might not be able to be a full-time contributor on defense immediately, perhaps landing with a team that needs special teams help now and can be patient with his development.

We could see him being a fit on teams such as: the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans, San Francisco 49ers, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Philadelphia Eagles, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.

Did you know: His brother, Sage, was a wide receiver for Wake Forest who also is a member of the 2021 draft class. Sage opted out of the 2020 season while Chazz opted to play for his ACC rival team.

In 2019, they met on the field, with both players starting. Sage caught nine passes for 169 yards with a 51-yard TD catch, and the Demon Deacons won, 34-31. Chazz made eight tackles (one for a loss) but didn't tackle his brother in the game.

Player comp: Former Jets first-rounder Darron Lee was another prep QB who made the switch to NFL linebacker and has a similar skills and athletic profile to Surratt. We also see similarities to 2018 Atlanta Falcons sixth-rounder Foyesade Oluokun.

Expected draft range: Top 100 pick