The Falcons have been hesitant to load up on pass rushers for years now, but after Vic Beasley’s departure in free agency, it is a need that is going to be impossible for them to ignore. Atlanta has to add multiple guys that can get after the quarterback, and few can do that better in this year’s draft than LSU’s defensive end/linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson.
The first thing many people are going to look at is the stat sheet, but if you do that with Chaisson, you’re selling yourself short. From the moment this 6’4″, 250-pound athletic specimen stepped on LSU’s campus, coaches raved about his potential and what he was going to accomplish as a member of Tiger nation.
Rarely do you see many freshmen play for LSU’s defense, but Chaisson participated in ten games as an 18-year-old, generating 27 total tackles, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks. His sophomore campaign was supposed to be his coming-out party, but a torn ACL in the first week of the season sidelined him for the rest of the year. Following his return from injury, it took Chaisson a little to get going as a junior. An ankle issue also cost him a couple of games and slowed him down even more. But by the end of the year, he was the second-most important player on LSU’s national championship defense (behind only Derek Stingley), racking up 5.5 sacks in the Tigers last five games, finally showing the production that many had been waiting for over three years in Baton Rouge.
But as I said, I don’t want to judge these prospects purely off their production — good or bad — so let’s look at what Chaisson brings to the table that is going to translate to the next level.
You can’t talk about this guy without mentioning his ideal body type and athleticism. He’s long, strong, and weighs 250 pounds with about two ounces of fat on him. Unfortunately, he will not be competing in drills at the Combine but expect him to at LSU’s Pro-Day. Chaisson is going to lite the world on fire with his speed, strength, and agility. Whatever teams might knock him for in regards to his lack of college production will quickly be forgotten after his performance at Pro-Day. But as we saw with Vic Beasley, it’s not all about the look or The Combine/Pro-Days either.
Beasley was a Combine warrior but lacked the necessary skills to become a consistent All-Pro type defensive player. He had one move, which was his speed and jump off the snap. If that didn’t work, he found himself out of the play altogether. That won’t be the case for Chaisson. He’s explosive off the line like Beasley and fast but is significantly better with his hands and showcased an array of moves over his collegiate career. He can be used in a variety of different roles — one-on-one on the outside or stunt to the inside — and is strong at the point of attack, as he showed in the CFP against Oklahoma, where he was named the MVP of the game, but it’s not all abut pass rushing for Chaisson.
He is just as good against the run as he is at getting after the passer. He does a fantastic job of setting the edge and is tremendous at tracking down ball carriers and finishing when he gets there. These are all things that were non-existent with Beasley, who was one of the worst defenders against the run and tacklers I have ever seen.
There are going to be questions about Chaisson’s production, and rightfully so. He only played in 27 games, started 16 of them and has 9.5 career sacks. But one look at LSU’s tape this past year, and it’s easy to recognize he is one of the best players on the field every week, especially as he got healthier as the season progressed. Dan Quinn would have a field day using him due to his versatility, and he could step in and start from day one. As far as potential goes, few have a higher ceiling, given he might be the most athletic pass rusher in the draft.
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