Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 15: LSU EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson

Eric Edholm
·8 min read
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

15. LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson

6-foot-3, 254 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.16 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Traits-heavy pass rusher with versatile skills, 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 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 with a repaired knee and a new number. He was awarded LSU’s vaunted No. 18 jersey, along with center 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 loss), 6.5 sacks and a forced fumble.

Chaisson, who turns 21 in July, skipped his final two seasons of eligibility and entered the 2020 NFL draft. He participated in the scouting combine but didn’t 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 skills thanks partly to loose hips. Explosive get-off at times. He beats 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. He showed a big jump in this area in 2019. Flashes a double-hand swipe that could be a go-to move. Also has a swim move that has high potential.

Better run defender than he’s given credit for. Chaisson 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 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:

Look how quickly Chaisson gets to the quarterback.
Look how quickly Chaisson gets to the quarterback.

Watch this dip move against Alabama tackle 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.
This is a quality tackle Chaisson. got by in a hurry.

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 wideout CeeDee Lamb from behind in the Peach Bowl.

Plays hard and competes every snap. Stepped up in big games. 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 average now.

Rarely took over games in college. Had only 9.5 career sacks in 26 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.

Will get too low and lose balance as a rusher. Chaisson gets pushed into the dirt more than he should. 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 athleticism first. Has all the ability to diversify his attack but isn’t there yet. Needs some “Plan B” rushes that aren’t inside counters. When he commits to the edge and is stopped, Chaisson 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. Chaisson suffered a broken collarbone in high school, a torn left ACL in 2018, plus an ankle injury that slowed him early last season and caused him to miss two games. Flagged for six penalties last season, including two in the national title game.

Best-suited destination: A team is gambling on greatness here. Chaisson’s 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 develop into a useful piece, either as a 3-4 linebacker or a down rusher.

Among the teams interested in his services: 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. 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. 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 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

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 | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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