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The New York Jets First Pick in the 2020 NFL Draft is K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU

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Speed, power, character, elite skills... wow

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - LSU v Oklahoma Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

You know a player has to be special when he gets offered a scholarship to play for an SEC program without playing football. That is how special an athlete K’Lavon Chaisson is. He had never taken a snap in a varsity game.

K’Lavon went to a summer football camp hosted by LSU to support his friend Eric Monroe in June of 2015, Monroe was a defensive back that LSU was interested in. K’Lavon stood on the sidelines to watch all the wild drills the coaches were putting the players through. He had never seen most of these drills before, he was there to just “hang out.”

K’Lavon quit football in the ninth grade to play basketball full time. He had been playing both sports all his life so he figured with his height (6’ 4” as a sophomore) his playing future was as a small or power forward. He soon changed his mind though, “I started seeing bigger people playing the same position as me,” Chaisson said of basketball. “I was like, ‘Nah, this isn’t going to work.”

He rejoined the football team halfway through spring practice or about two months before the LSU camp.

He was standing on the sideline with one of his football coaches Garrett Cross who asked him if he wanted to participate in the camp. K’Lavon just looked at him funny. He didn’t bring cleats or a helmet. He didn’t even have shorts.

His coach told him, “Go out there and show them what you’ve got.” K’Lavon borrowed shorts, cleats and a helmet. He didn’t lose a single one-on-one battle that day.

Ed Orgeron was the LSU defensive line coach back in 2015. He watched some drills then called over head coach Les Miles. They both watched a few more drills.

Later outside linebackers coach Dale Peveto was walking K’Lavon to Coach Miless office when he told him. “We’re going to offer you!”

“But I haven’t played a down of varsity football,” K’Lavon told Peveto. A few hours later K’Lavon was on his way home with a scholarship offer from LSU to play football. His high school head coach Jon Kay said, “He was surprised. Everybody was surprised.”

He went to other camps that summer to refresh his football acumen to get ready for the coming season. Word of K’Lavon’s exploits were bandied about in the recruiting community. K’Lavon was also offered scholarships from Texas and Baylor at their camps. In their Houston camp Colorado offered him a scholarship during warmups. He was offered a scholarship from UCLA solely based on some video of his agility drills. The University of Houston offered him a scholarship at its camp; even though the camp was rained out.

Joe Price, the receivers coach at North Shore High School where K’Lavon went to school, was amazed. “Five offers and zero snaps,” he observed.

K’Lavon had talent but he was raw. Coach Kay said, “When he got offered, we figured, ‘Maybe we can do something with him.” K’Lavon has always been a hard worker, but the scholarship offer might have made him feel entitled. He was sometimes defiant during that summer. “He was going to kick him off the team,” Chaisson’s grandfather Gary said.

K’Lavon realized he needed to straighten his act out so he put in the work and became a much more coachable player. In his first game he was a rotational player coming off the bench. In that game he collected multiple QB sacks. His defensive coordinator coach Cross said, “He was a starter after that.”

K’Lavon only played two years of high school football but amassed 94 tackles, 24 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 7 recovered fumbles, 2 interceptions, and 56 QB hurries. He is also a smart kid. He graduated North Shore with a 3.3 grade point average.

K’Lavon worked on his strength and conditioning that was set by LSU strength coach Tommy Moffitt. He gained 20 pounds of muscle but still ran an electronically timed 4.60/40. Coach Kay would often walk into his staff meeting room to find K’Lavon working to learn the concepts of the LSU defense that defensive coordinator Dave Aranda gave to him.

His coaches have always praised K’Lavon on his intense study habits. “You don’t have to force Chaisson to study football” said Kay. In fact he has such a keen focus on the mental side of the game that he has been told by coaches that he thinks too much.

“It’s not checkers,” Chaisson said. “It’s chess.”

K’Lavon was well aware back in 2017 that Alabama had a 6 game winning streak against LSU. LSU’s last win was a 9-6 victory in 2011. K’Lavon was 12 years old then. He watched game film of Alabama before he even enrolled at LSU to decipher their offensive tendencies, formations, presnap shifts, and everything he could learn about the offensive line. He watched footwork, blocking schemes, and how they worked in unison.

He was doing all this but still hadn’t accepted LSU’s scholarship offer yet. Remember, he is a Texan, and the Longhorns were working hard to get his commitment. Houston has a urban population of 6.6 million people. That is larger than the entire state of Louisiana. Texas had many visits with K’Lavon, and he had admittedly given them a silent commitment. K’Lavon was even recruiting players to Austin to play at UT.

On the eve of signing day K’Lavon was torn between the two schools. To make matters worse LSU and Texas were scheduled to play each other in 2019 and 2020. His grandmother had asked her son-in-law (an artist) to sketch a picture of her grandson in his college jersey for his ceremony on signing day. Problem was she didn’t know which school it was. At 6 pm the night before signing day K’Lavon called his grandmother and told her, “It’s Texas.” The sketch was being drawn with K’Lavon in his white Texas jersey. K’Lavon called his grandmother back two hours later. “No. Tell him to stop,” he told her. “It’s LSU.”

“We thought he was going to UT,” Kay said.

“The night before signing day, it was UT engraved in stone,” K’Lavon’s grandmother said.

“For K’Lavon,” Kay said, “I think it was, ‘I always felt like I had to go to Texas. I always wanted to go to LSU.’”

The difference was the persistence of Ed Orgeron and linebackers coach Dennis Johnson.

As the story, goes K’Lavon hosted 4 coaches from the University of Texas at his house one night. The next morning he was to fly to Gainesville with his grandparents Gary and Mirrian for an official visit with the University of Florida. They had to leave their house early to make the flight. Ed Orgeron and coach Johnson showed up at K’Lavon’s house at 3:30 in the morning. Orgeron and Johnson followed Gary, Mirrian and K’Lavon to the airport, walked with them up to the security line, and spoke with K’Lavon by phone up until the plane taxied for takeoff.

“Coach O is talking to him and they’re boarding the plane,” Gary said.

“I had to say, ‘Coach O, we have to go!’ ” Mirrian said. “He was saying, ‘You don’t have to go (on the Florida visit)!’ ”

K’Lavon chose the LSU Tigers for a few reasons:

1) LSU offered first.

2) The visit to UT made him realize that Austin “wasn’t his style.”

3) The persistence of Coach Orgeron which included that dawn visit.

He remembered coach Johnson asking, “Why risk your career going to a program trying to rebuild?”

When asked about his frenzied pursuit of K’Lavon, “He reminds me of Arden Key,” Ed Orgeron said. “Tremendous athlete. Can rush the passer. Great quick-twitch player.”

K’Lavon missed 2017 spring practice at LSU because he was still in high school. When he showed up in the summer for practice the coaches couldn’t believe the elite physical traits he had. Remember, this is LSU which has some of the greatest athletes in all of college football every year. K’Lavon was ready to go to work. The first game of the season was against BYU at NRG Stadium in Houston, 35 miles from North Shore High School.

The last time K’Lavon was on that field was in 2015 (his first year back playing football) for the state title game against Austin-Lake. He made the game-saving tackle on a 4th and goal in overtime, getting penetration and stopping a jet sweep in a 21 to 14 win. He was named defensive MVP with a strip fumble, two sacks and 4 tackles for loss.

His first game in a Tigers jersey he played sparingly but still had 3 solo tackles in a 27-0 shutout of BYU. The game which was scheduled for NRG Stadium was moved to the SuperDome in New Orleans because of the floods from Hurricane Harvey. K’Lavon played the game fearing for his family back in Houston.

The next week in Death Valley for K’Lavon’s first home game he had a much better game with 4 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. This is the second sack he had late in the game against a besieged Mocs offense.

K’Lavon was playing this game as a true freshman about 6 weeks after his 18th birthday. He is as raw as they come, but that quick burst of his travels anywhere. This is actually a fairly advanced move for a guy barely out of high school. He uses that beautiful 1st step to assault the right tackle’s right shoulder which makes the tackle overcommit to the outside leaving a truck lane of space to the inside. K’Lavon uses an effective spin back to the inside then keeps the tackle at bay with a straight left arm. From there it is an easy chase down of the QB who tries vainly to escape his clutches.

This next play is from the 1st game of K’Lavon’s sophomore season against the Miami Hurricanes who were ranked #8 in the country. K’Lavon is #4 in this game at the bottom of the screen lined up outside the Canes’ right tackle.

You would never guess just how strong K’Lavon is. Remember, he is barely 19 years old in this game. K’Lavon is 6’ 4” and about 245 lbs in this game. He is going up against a 6’ 6” 366 lb offensive tackle. K’Lavon gets off on the snap fast. He gets into the big tackle pressing him back into his own backfield on a running play. K’Lavon watches the play all the way, then sheds the lineman like an old tissue. He then grabs the RB to make the tackle at the line of scrimmage. This is amazing power and strength from such a lean player.

This next play is from the same game, but now K’Lavon is lined up on the edge against the 6’ 5” 315 lbs left tackle Tyree St. Louis who is currently on the Los Angeles Chargers roster. You saw the power and strength on the last play.

Now you see the speed and quickness. The kid is the total package. This is just an ordinary inside move on a corner blitz. It wasn’t even a line stunt. This is a blown assignment by the offensive line but one that shows the benefits of being quick and fast. You make the line have to adjust quicker than they are capable of doing. If a lineman had picked up K’Lavon then someone else would have had a free run at the QB. That is team football.

Remember this quote...

There is no limit to what a team can accomplish if no one cares who gets the credit.”

This is the idealism of a team with the correct culture. it’s a winning mantra. Teams who think like this win together, but they also stay together during hard times.

An NFL season is a demanding, long, arduous journey that is fraught with pitfalls and injuries. There will be hard times. NFL players want to win. They are emotional so the sparks of discontent can quickly rage into a torrent of disputes that fracture lesser teams.

All get the credit. All get the blame. There is no personal shaming, only a collective effort to right the ship with everyone pitching in to save a season. Players who believe in this mantra work to help each other rather than trying to assign guilt. By doing so teams form strong bonds. They come out of hard times stronger, more assured of the people around them. A brotherhood is established.

I will now get off my high horse again.

Here is another look at the same play from the endzone view.

There is nothing really special that K’Lavon does on this play other than avoid giving his intentions away before the snap. Yet it shows a skill set that is tantalizing.

Sadly in this game K’Lavon suffered a torn ACL which made him miss the rest of the season.

K’Lavon had plans when he came to LSU to get a degree in engineering in 3 years then go to the NFL. He realized that a athletic career would be nice. but he needs a backup plan. He dreams of taking care of his mom and 3 younger siblings.

“I want to make sure I’m wealthy enough to take care of my family, It’s not really, ‘Aw man, I’ve got to make it (to the NFL) and if I don’t, I won’t succeed in life” he said. He has dreamed of playing in the NFL, but he has bigger plans than pro ball. He wants to build things and along the way build a better life for his family.

The injury was devastating to K’Lavon, but it did not take away his desire. “Everything happens for a reason,” Chaisson said, “so I don’t have anyone to blame for it. It’s God’s timing.”

He worked even harder to come back ready to play. He was going to start his 3rd year of football at LSU, but he began the year with a grand total of 11 games played and was just a rotational player at that. He had just turned 20 when the season started.

The LSU Tigers have a tradition involving number 18. It is worn by the most inspirational two players on the team, one on offense, one on defense. It is a tradition that started when Matt Mauck came back from a serious foot injury to lead the Tigers to a National Championship back in 2003. The number has been handed down ever since. It is earned, not given to players.

In a ceremony before LSU began preseason practice both Lloyd Cushenberry and K’Lavon Chaisson were awarded the inspirational #18 jersey. Coaches saw how K’Lavon responded to his injured knee. He worked. He had a great attitude. He was around all season supporting his teammates. He made the SEC Academic Honor Roll for the 2nd time in two seasons. They respected his great character and leadership.

He got the jersey despite being just a redshirt sophomore. His coach, Ed Orgeron, said it best, “I know he’s going to wear it well. I’m proud of him.”

K’Lavon worked on academic studies, weights, and game film like never before. He came back stronger, like he never was injured. During the season K’Lavon was a beast against the best competition. Florida, Auburn, Alabama, Texas A&M, and Oklahoma were his best games. He became not only a pass rusher but an all around great player. Let’s look.

Here he is against Florida. His job on this play is not as a pass rusher, at least not right away. The tight end was gashing the defense so on this play K’Lavon’s job is to push the tight end off his line then get back to guard the edge. Yet this is a trap play with the backside offensive tackle and guard pulling to lead the back into the hole. K’Lavon gets his jab to hold up the tight end then gets back to fight off the guard. This leaves him all alone with the running back. Lamical Perine #2 is no little scatback. He is 5’ 11” 218 lbs. You can see that K’Lavon makes short work with Perine, showing good upper body strength to stop the back cold then push him back for a loss.

On this next play K’Lavon is indeed in pass rush mode going up against right tackle Stone Forsythe, a 6’ 7” 329 lbs redshirt junior with great strength along with great length.

If you watch closely there is little in technical acuity in this pass rush. There is no hand fighting, no subterfuge. He does try a little up and under move, but this is mostly straight speed along with quickness. He doesn’t get to the QB, but you will notice down in the bottom of the right side of the screen a yellow hanky comes in late. Forsythe literally grabs K’Lavon by the back of his jersey to keep him from crushing the QB.

This next clip is later in the game with the score tied 28-28. K’Lavon is up against TE Kyle Pitts who is 6’ 6” 239 lbs with nice length. K’Lavon is at the bottom of the screen. Remember he is #18 in white.

I’ve watched many hours of game footage on K’Lavon.I was surprised but also impressed by his strength and power. I already knew he was quick and fast. Unlike the last play, K’Lavon shows excellent technique to hold the edge. Watch as at the snap K’Lavon bends his knees at the same time he contacts the tight end. K’Lavon is able to get under his pads and press him up (great show of strength) to get the leverage advantage.

K’Lavon must have some good length as he presses him away from his body (again nice strength) then controls him while still reading the play. This is textbook stacking and shedding. K’Lavon reads the play. Once he knows the direction the running back is going he sheds Pitts like a used napkin then makes the tackle. That was an impressive play.

You saw the power sand strength. Now see the quickness and speed. This next play is later in the game with Florida down by two TDs. Now the edge rusher can be released to get the QB so LSU can end this game against a valiant rival.

This is why a blindside protector is so important. You can see what happens to the QB when he doesn’t see what is coming The QB was lucky not to get seriously injured on the play but I’m sure when he woke up the next day remembered this sack. The play is over so quickly it is hard to see what happened. Fortunately I have another view from the end zone.

When K’Lavon is one on one with a tackle selling out for the pass rush, he is tough to stop. This is pure speed and quickness. Technical skill is unnecessary here (I never thought I would say that) even against a guy who is 6’ 7” with long arms. That took less than 2 seconds because of elite short area speed and quickness.

This next play is similar to high high school state championship play. It is 4th down. Florida needs a TD, but theu run an option play to K’Lavon’s side of the field. This is very well played. I see seasoned pros who don’t do as good a job on this type play.

It’s 4th and 2 so K’Lavon is expecting a pass, but he has the responsibility to protect the edge first. He doesn’t try the hero play by just making an all out rush at the snap. He is about to rush but sees it is a running play so he holds his ground. He gives a little ground waiting for the QB to make the first move. When he does he jumps in the air as to block any pass that could be thrown. Then he grabs the QB. You could not play this any better.

In this game it was the first game when K’Lavon felt he was fully healthy from his knee injury. His coaches noticed too. On Monday after watching the tape Ed Orgeron said, “K’Lavon had one of his best games.”

This was the first play of the Peach Bowl against Oklahoma. The Sooners had a pass play called so they lined up their best blocker on the outside against K’Lavon, a burly fullback in 6’ 3” 235 lbs Brayden Wills. Jalen Hurts is the QB so the idea is not to rush wildly but to keep him from scrambling.

K’Lavon uses that strength and length to push the fullback back to his own QB. Once there he throws aside Wills then makes the tackle before Hurts can escape. The old John Steinbeck “best laid plans of mice and men” come to mind in Oklahoma’s scheme.

The next play K’Lavon has no edge responsibilities because his corner Kristian Fulton is crashing down from the outside so K’Lavon can now penetrate.

Fulton gets knocked down on the play so he loses contain. K’Lavon sees safety Jacoby Stevens in position for the tackle so K’Lavon pushes down the line of scrimmage as to not over run the play allowing a cutback lane. When Stevens whiffs on the tackle K’Lavon is there to clean up. He takes the back down with ease. This is controlled aggression on K’Lavon’s part. He plays with composure but also with urgency.

If you ever hear a scout saying he wants to see a player turn speed into power this play is what he is talking about. Remember this is Oklahoma they are playing. A spot in the National Championship Game is on the line. This isn’t some Division II team in an early season game. Oklahoma won the Joe Moore Award in 2018 for having the best offensive line in all of college football.

The score is getting out of hand as LSU is up by 28 with less than 3 12 minutes gone in the 2nd quarter. Oklahoma needs to do something in a hurry, or this game is over in the 1st half. The player K’Lavon is going up against is a redshirt senior R. J. Proctor who is 6’ 4” 328 lbs. Watch how at the snap Proctor is racing to cut off the outside because he fears the speed of K’Lavon.

Yet it is the power as Chaisson puts two hands into his chest then pushes him aside like nothing then sacks Jalen Hurts. See how K’Lavon gets into great position, his body right in the middle of Procter, with great lean to increase his power. When he runs away after the sack Chaisson looks like a cornerback next to the size of Proctor. This is just impressive strength from such a lean, chiseled frame.

This next play is from the Alabama game which was a war. K’Lavon is going against Alex Leatherwood 6’ 6” 310 lbs who got terrorized all game. On this play K’Lavon is tasked with holding the edge on a play that is coming right at him.

K’Lavon is able to get around Leatherwood to keep his edge, but RB Terrell Lewis swings out wide to get around the edge defender. By doing so K’Lavon along with ILB Queen are able to take down the RB for a loss on the play. Even though K’Lavon is characterized as an edge player he is really an outside linebacker who hold the edge, drop into coverage and rush the passer. In this game during the 39 pass plays that Alabama had, K’Lavon dropped into coverage 21 times. He rushed the passer only 18 times. K’Lavon doesn’t care about numbers.

“I think people get too caught up in the numbers and not watch film,” Chaisson said. “That’s not my job, too. People think whatever they want to think. As long as we’re winning, I’m glad that’s going on. But I try to make sure I do good in all aspects of the game, having no weakness. I’m legit when it comes to pass coverage.”

Here is a play on a pass play that K’Lavon was supposed to hold the edge, not just rush the passer. He is too quick for the tight end who is coming across on a wham block. He gets there too late to help out on the play.

This is a key play in the game as Alabama is driving to take the lead at halftime. This is a 3rd and 3 play that K’lavon stops for a loss against Najee Harris who is elusive as any power back. He was great in this game, just not on this play.

Now as LSU is moving away from Alabama here is another great play on a 3rd and inches run by Najee Harris. K’Lavon is not blocked because the end is not supposed to have the ability or quickness to get to the running back before he makes his way through the hole.

It’s not like K’Lavon just races off the line of scrimmage. His job is to hold the edge which he does. Once he sees the handoff, he has the speed to (after he hesitates) race in to take Harris down for a loss.

This last play is hard to see from this angle, but you can see K’Lavon race by Leatherwood like his feet were stuck in cement. Tua Tagovailoa was able to get the ball out before the sack with help from Leatherwood.

You see the impact much clearer on the second GIF.

You can complain that K’Lavon should have more sacks on his resume (which is foolhardy), but a play like this shows you what he had to go through during his rushes. You have to love the desire on this play as K’Lavon is getting his head nearly ripped off yet he is still reaching for the QB in his quest for a sack.

I don’t have the stats on how many holding penalties were called on his rushes, but they were numerous. I saw at least 4 or 5. The refs probably missed many. I also didn’t get tape for every game so there are likely more.

K’Lavon was the MVP of the Peach Bowl in 2019 with a 6 tackle, 2 sack game in a huge win for LSU.

K’Lavon played in a total of 24 games with LSU. He had 92 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and 4 passes defended. Yet the numbers don’t always tell the entire story. How many game plans were set up to stop K’Lavon which left other players with single coverage to make plays? He is a speed rusher who is not just a speed rusher. He is so much more.

The mistake that is commonly made is people looking at stats to determine a player’s worth. Stats are never a consideration. They are fool’s gold. You have to see what the player is doing on the field. Stats are to be looked at only after you do your entire assessmen. This way insignificant factors do not bias your judgement when watching film.

Stats can be looked at from whatever point of view you want. I will show you what I mean.

We all know Chase Young is a stud who will be one of the top 5 players taken in the Draft. K’Lavon Chaisson is not Chase Young; who is more like a defensive end type player rather than an outside linebacker. He is going to rush the passer more.

In his first 24 games at Ohio State (the amount of games K’Lavon played in college), Chase Young had 17 sacks:

3 against Maryland, 3 against Northwestern, 3 against Rutgers, 2 against Michigan State, and 3 between Cincinnati and Florida Atlantic.

Those are 14 sacks against teams that were severely overmatched and had to pass to have any hope to stay even close in the game. Those are 14 of 17 sacks in his first 24 games.

Chase Young had a total of 59 tackles in his first 24 games with 23 tackles for loss, and 2 passes defensed.

K’Lavon Chaisson had 9.5 sacks

2 against Tennessee-Chattanooga (his 2nd game), 1 against Miami, 1 against Texas, 1 against Florida, 1.5 against Texas A&M, 1 against Georgia, and 2 against Oklahoma.

Most of these games were dogfights with close scores.

K’Lavon Chaisson had 92 total tackles in his 24 games with 19 tackles for loss, with 4 passes defended. This includes a 10 tackle, 3.5 TFL game against Alabama. It also includes an 8 tackle, 3 TFL game against Florida, and a 6 tackle 2 TFL game against Oklahoma. These were all huge games for LSU, with many potential NFL players. K’Lavon responded.

Each player is a great player, and Chase Young will surely be the first of these two drafted. Young is a 20 year old player who is a freak athlete and not near his ceiling right now. He is still a very raw player who doesn’t use his hands well and needs more counter moves. Yet he had 21 tackles for loss with 16.5 sacks. Imagine what he will be like when he figures it out. Young has a chance to be better, much better than Jadeveon Clowney. That is saying a lot.

Remember this though...

K’Lavon Chaisson has played only 24 games in college. 11 of those were as a 18 year old part-time player. The other 13 games he was an outside linebacker who rushed the passer about half the time. Plus he was coming back from a major knee injury his final year which takes some time recover fully from.

K’Lavon plays a very controlled, smart game of football yet he is only 20 years old. He is just a baby that some team can mold with NFL coaching into a beast of a player. This is a good, smart kid who loves to study film and read defensive playbooks in his spare time. He will have more of that time now that he is no longer in engineering school.

Personal note:

When I started to really scout this player I wasn’t expecting much. I knew he had a quick first step plus was very athletic. Yet after watching the first five game film footage I was astounded by how well he does things; some little things. Yes, he still has a long way to go in some areas including using his hands and counter moves, but his all-around game is fantastic. He has an innate ability to play the game of football. He has a chance to be special if he continues to develop.

Summary

K’Lavon Chaisson is a talented player who has elite skills but is also smart beyond his years. He does not turn 21 until the first week of NFL training camp, and he played only 24 college games. He has so much more to learn, but he already has skills that can help any NFL team.

A great GM has to look at prospect to determine where that player will be in 4 to 5 years. Will he be a player who will receive a long-term contract or will the team jettison him at the first opportunity?

K’Lavon Chaisson has to have one of the highest projections possible. He has an elite skill set. He is smart with a voracious appetite to learn. He does have much to learn in a technical standpoint but understanding power and leverage are not among them. He needs to learn some hand techniques along with a variety of pass rushing and counter moves.

The defensive line coach who gets K’Lavon is going to love him, though. K’Lavon has solid character. Ke could fit nicely into any locker room. He has leadership qualities and should be a positive influence for the entire team.

I need to see the measurements of his length, his agility drills, and his true speed. My grade on him will probably change slightly after learning these things.

I have a mid first round grade on him right now. He is currently in my top 15 players in the Draft.

That’s what I think.

What do you think?