Many evaluators kept their eyes on the Jaguars during the 2020 NFL Draft. They were armed with 12 picks and are experiencing a rebuild.
Jacksonville traded franchise stalwarts in Jalen Ramsey, Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye and hope to return its once-dominant mentality; the Jaguars' smothering effect overwhelmed offenses during an unexpected run to the AFC Championship Game in 2017. General manager David Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone quickly found successors to the players who exited the locker room.
The Jaguars selected Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson with the No. 9 pick; Henderson has drawn comparisons similar to Bouye. It was the next selection that sent shockwaves through draft circles.
Jacksonville drafted LSU edge rusher K'Lavon Chaisson with its 20th-overall selection. The Jaguars aren't shy about their love for LSU players; they selected running back Leonard Fournette with the fourth-overall pick in 2017 and wide receiver D.J. Chark in the second round in 2018.
Chaisson was one of the more widely debated prospects on film. His scheme fit and questionable production gave some evaluators pause about where he would be drafted.
We've seen similar prospects with an identical body type struggle to find a home because of their inability to find a niche in a team’s defensive scheme. Chaisson addressed those concerns — the stigma in scouting circles that he wasn't a versatile enough player to eventually become a consistent defensive end on the next level — at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“When you hire somebody, do you want to hire someone who speaks one language? Or do you want to hire somebody that speaks three languages? I speak three languages," Chaisson said. "I can pass rush, drop in coverage and cover anybody you want me to cover, and I can play the run. No offensive lineman will ever just move me off the ball and bully me."
Another interesting and obvious reason behind selecting Chaisson is Yannick Ngakoue’s contract situation; it has yet to be resolved, but all signs point to him eventually being dealt elsewhere. Chaisson can step in and be a heavy contributor as a rookie.
It’s a logical fit for Chaisson and his skill set. At LSU, Dave Aranda's defense incorporates a lot of various fronts, but the meat and potatoes of it all centers around a three-down scheme; something utilized by defensive coordinator Todd Walsh and assistant Dom Capers.
Chaisson will be afforded opportunities to rush from a standup position, which better suits his talent. Even though he has prior experience rushing with his hand in the dirt, he seemed more comfortable from a sprinters stance on film.
From my 2020 draft guide:
"Chaisson operated at weak side defensive end and outside linebacker from the stand-up position. He was used primarily as an extra overhang defender and also as a weak side linebacker that was forced to drop into coverage on occasions. Chaisson has very flexible hips and plenty of athleticism that allowed LSU to use him in many creative ways. He was able to play multiple spots within the scheme because of his natural traits. He possesses a sudden first step and continued speed afterward; he also has a long stride that covers a lot of ground when moving vertically. Chaisson’s suddenness also shines when chasing plays; he has the speed to quickly gobble up yards when chasing in pursuit. Chaisson also incorporates a lot of crafty hand swipes. His tactics are extremely creative, but he’s able to mask the technique with his ability to explode off of the ball then perform a slight pause prior to attacking the opposition. The swipes are violent, and he’s able to demonstrate them using either hand from both sides of the line."
After returning from a torn ACL in 2018, Chaisson collected 60 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss and 6 1/2 sacks as a redshirt sophomore. He’ll enter the NFL as a 20-year-old rookie and hopefully develop into a reliable contributor opposite of 2019 first-round pick in Josh Allen. They could form a formidable duo and help the Jaguars return to their once dominating ways.