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2020 NFL Draft: K’Lavon Chaisson the best rush linebacker available

The 2020 NFL Draft is not known for its depth at the rush linebacker position, but K’Lavon Chaisson from LSU looks like a star in the making.

The group of stand-up pass rushers is not among the best position groups in this draft.

With that said, there are some strong pass rushers in this group and one player, in particular, who looks like an absolute star off the edge.

That player is LSU linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson.

Chaisson has been under the microscope over the last three seasons at LSU, mostly for his inability to stay on the field. Early in his career, he struggled with injuries and inconsistency, but an ACL tear in 2018 was an unfortunate and massive roadblock to this talented athlete being able to show what he can do off the edge.

Chaisson came back from the ACL injury in 2019 more explosive than ever, and despite lower numbers than anyone is used to seeing from a top-flight edge player — 60 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and a forced fumble — Chaisson has traits that scouts covet.

He should be one of the odds-on favorites to ‘win’ the Scouting Combine in a few weeks.

As a redshirt sophomore, Chaisson was given the prestigious honor of wearing the No. 18 jersey at LSU, a tradition passed down for nearly two decades voted on by the players to represent the school’s success and selfless attitude.

He was also voted a team captain, so it’s clear this player is a strong voice in the locker room and someone whose peers look up to him.

There was a moment in LSU’s victory over Oklahoma where Chaisson organized a huddle of players around him to calm guys down.

Those intangible traits cannot be overstated as the 2020 NFL Draft inches closer, because those traits are so critical for coaches, especially for teams with a new coaching staff looking to establish culture.

The MVP of the College Football Playoff semifinal against Oklahoma, Chaisson’s traits off the edge are not simply limited to exploding off the snap on third downs.

So what does this guy bring to the table?

Speed

There are not many rush linebackers at any level who can chase down wide receivers from behind, much less players like Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.

Chaisson is not only some ultra-athlete who is going to time well in the 40-yard dash. He showed this past season at LSU that his speed is a weapon in so many different ways.

He is explosive off the snap in a stunning fashion. He has a rare first-step quickness that mentally defeats an offensive tackle before he has a chance to engage with Chaisson. Once they engage, it’s rare that Chaisson is not already affecting the passer in some way.

Power

One aspect of Chaisson’s speed that is so devastating is his ability to convert speed to power.

Although he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, he plays 20 pounds heavier with a very strong punch and excellent use of his length and leverage.

Chaisson doesn’t try to run around guys. He’s perfectly fine tossing 300-plus pound linemen into the ground if he has to.

Versatility

Not only can Chaisson play off the edge, but he’s also capable of matching up man-to-man with tight ends lined up in the slot.

He plays the run well with discipline and the ability to diagnose plays quickly.

With his speed and athleticism, this is a player teams will be able to trust from pretty much any position on their defensive front and expect him to have success.

Although injuries are a bit of a cause for concern here, Chaisson’s intangible qualities as a leader and team captain-type along with his speed, explosiveness off the snap, ability to convert speed to power, and overall intense style of play lead up to the fact that he will be the top rush linebacker in the entire 2020 class.

Since Chase Young is more likely to be playing with his hand in the dirt at the next level, Chaisson takes that distinction heading into the Scouting Combine where he is likely to fortify it further.

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