You'd be forgiven if no emotions are invoked upon hearing the name "K'Lavon Chaisson" outside of Baton Rouge, Louisiana these days. After all, this was a player who played in just one game for the LSU Tigers in 2018 and enters the 2019 college football season as a pass rusher with three career sacks. Out of sight, out of mind -- right?
Well, not necessarily.
There's a reason why rumblings out of Louisiana (and the NFL Draft community) have already started to swell on this redshirt sophomore out of Houston, Texas. His hype is empowered and emboldened by the rapid ascent of Alabama DL Quinnen Williams last year -- a no-namer 12-months ago who exploded onto the scene and was made the 3rd-overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft this past April. And I'm here to tell you that the hype is warranted.
I won't be the first one to stake my flag in the ground here. A young talent in the NFL Draft community, Carter Donnick, has already assembled a profile on Chaisson declaring him as a "star in the making". As a matter of fact, it was Donnick's profile that finally prompted me to dig out the 2017 All-22 (as well as film from LSU's opening victory over Miami last fall -- Chaisson's only game of the year) to check him out. And I think Donnick is right.
The odds of you not knowing who Chaisson is a few short months from now is slim to none. A former four-star recruit, Chaisson measures in at an impressive 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. But numbers alone don't tell the story on a player like Chaisson.
Have you ever heard the phrase "built like a football player"? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what that actually means? Check out Chaisson's build and get back to me. He carries his weight extremely well, he's broad in the shoulders and sports a lot of muscle mass in his lower body -- providing him with a strong foundation to play with explosiveness in power. You win from the ground up, after all.
And yet we've seen endless workout warriors and physical freaks bust out at the pro level -- why is Chaisson different? Especially with such limited production as a pass rusher?
The evidence lies in his movement on film. Typically rocked up athletes have a hard time turning corners, changing directions quickly or bending to play with leverage. Chaisson? He moves out in space like a safety...at 250 pounds. So much so that the Tigers actually flexed him out there as a space defender from time to time. When is the last time you saw a 250 pound defender drive down-hill into a bubble screen and beat the point man to his spot on the block? Because that's what Chaisson is capable of -- while also having the lower body power to collapse offensive linemen who outweigh him by 65 pounds off the edge as a pass rusher.
I've watched Chaisson hold his ground and anchor as outside contain vs. top-10 overall pick Mike McGlinchey in LSU's bowl game vs. Notre Dame on January 1, 2018, holding his gap sufficiently and filtering runs back into the teeth of the defense. (Side bar -- I also watched him get choke slammed by Quenton Nelson in the trenches. But I mean, come on. It's Quenton Nelson).
And I've seen him play turn and run coverage against running backs 30 yards down the field.
I can hear you already -- Kyle, that ball was under thrown.
Yes, I know. But that's not really the point here, is it? How often are we expecting 250 pound pass rushers to flip their hips and run stride for stride with running backs at the NFL level? It defies logic that coaches would even consider giving him the assignment. And yet there he goes -- opening up his strides and going step for step once he's gotten himself up to speed.
Watching the versatility Chaisson brings to the table invokes a comparison -- one of the most hated exercises in football scouting. But this is a player who sports the same type of build, brings the same level of explosiveness and touts the same degree of versatility as what we saw from Kentucky's Josh Allen -- drafted 7th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars this past April.
Does that make Chaisson Josh Allen 2.0 (...or is it Josh Allen 3.0 -- I'm confused)? It's no guarantee. Because we still need to see the pass rush production come to fruition on the field of play. But even Allen was the beneficiary of a senior boom, logging 17.0 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in his senior season alone. As a matter of fact?
Allen's production through his first 13 career games at Kentucky? 13 total tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2.5 tackles for loss.
Chaisson's production through his first 13 career games at LSU? 32 total tackles, 3.0 sacks, 5.5 tackles for loss.
The table is set for Chaisson to experience a swell of production and captivate draft circles with his versatility, explosiveness, power, quickness and agility. All he needs to do is accomplish two things he was unable to fulfill last year: stay healthy and produce. Chaisson went down late in the 4th quarter against the Miami Hurricanes with what would be diagnosed as an ACL tear -- an unfortunate turn that derailed a promising start to the 2018 campaign. In that contest, Chaisson was seen in all the roles and usages he's been attributed with. But his slashing style as a pass rusher was creating notable heat, suggesting his 2018 season would've swelled his sack totals and raised his public awareness alike.
Instead, Chaisson will lie dormant as a diamond in the rough...for now. Just don't saw we didn't warn you.