I really like the linebacker prospect from UNC, Chazz Surratt. Fun player to watch, high ceiling. Love how he plays football. I don't know how to grade him and one reason for this is I'm not sure how valuable his position is in today's NFL.
In the 2nd round of the 2003 draft, the Rams drafted Pisa Tinoisamoa, who played in college at Hawaii. He was a bit undersized at 6 feet tall and 231 pounds. Injuries hampered him, but overall he was a good player for the Rams. Around 20 years ago, most NFL teams played a 4-3 scheme. Offenses ran the ball more. Having a speedy run and hit WILL linebacker was important. That player often got a bunch of tackles.
The Rams don't play a 4-3 defense. In the NFL, there are plays where the defense only has one LB on the field. In some cases, maybe even zero. Where would Tinoisamoa be drafted today? The Rams didn't have good inside linebackers in their 3-4 scheme last season. But, they still had one of the best defenses in the league and made the playoffs. In the playoffs, they beat Seattle, a team with a great dual threat QB. If LBs aren't really that crucial, maybe you don't need to draft one early unless it is one of those super special players who looks like a HOFer.
In 2015, Bucky Brooks ranked each position in order of importance. He believed that a weakside LB was medium in importance, ranking ahead of positions like RT, RG, C and LG. A 2017 article by FoxSports took a different view, ranking it as one of the least important positions (listing C as being even less important.) What do you think? Has the rise of mobile QBs made fast LBs a vital part of a good defense? Or should teams treat weakside LBs as being very low in priority and focus more on the other positions in the draft?
6'1.5'' tall, 227 pounds, 76'' wingspan, 30'' arms, 9.5'' hands.
Surratt was a great dual threat QB in high school and he was recruited as a QB. He was the Parade All American Player of the Year one year after Kyler Murray won the same honor. His senior year in HS in the Charlotte area, Surratt had 3,540 passing yards (253 yards per game), 48 passing TDs, 1,342 rushing yards (10.0 yards per carry, 96 yards per game) and 15 rushing TDs. He was also a basketball star, named All State in both basketball and football. 4 star QB recruit. Left handed thrower.
Redshirted in 2016.
As QB in 2017, he started 7 games, completed 58.5% of passes, 1,342 yards, 8 TDs and 3 INTs. Ran for 210 yards and 5 TDs. The only game the team won that he started was against Old Dominion. He didn't have a very good supporting cast, both on the OL and WRs. His accuracy was shaky, his arm strength was okay, but not elite, he didn't read the defense well, showing inexperience. He was a strong and physical runner. One play, he applies a stiff arm and knocks the DB hard to the ground. Left one game after a hit to his lower back and in another game appeared to have maybe a head or shoulder injury after a hard hit.
In 2018, he was one of 13 players suspended for selling school issued sneakers, sitting out the first 4 games. In his first start that year, he was 4 out of 10 passing for 10 yards and 3 INTs. On the final INT, he gave tremendous effort racing down the field to try to make the tackle, but when he dove he tore ligaments in his right hand, ending his season.
Deciding that his NFL prospects weren't good as a QB, Surratt decided to switch to LB. Started transition while his hand was still in a cast.
When he was a QB, he was listed at 215 pounds. Mack Brown, the UNC head coach, says Surratt has 4.5 sec speed in the 40. In Madden video game football, you can take fast offensive players and play them out of position on defense. This is real life, not a video game. QB to LB isn't a normal transition so late in a player's career. QB to safety is common. But, not LB. Can you remember another example of a player who had successfully done something like that?
2019 (13 games): 115 tackles (66 solo), 15 TFL, 6.5 sacks, INT, 4 PD, FF, FR
2020 (11 starts): 91 tackles (49 solo), 7.5 TFL, 6 sacks, INT, 4 PD, FF, FR
Had a ton of missed tackles in 2019. As expected, experienced early struggles moving to LB. Per Draft Network, he had nearly a 20% missed tackle rate in 2019. Bryce Perkins had a 65 yard TD run where Surratt misses a one arm tackle attempt (it looked to me like the WR was holding the LB. Maybe should have been a penalty.) Focused on improving his angles and other aspects of LB play after that 2019 season. Skipped his team's bowl game in 2020 to focus on NFL draft.
ESPN 47th overall prospect (2nd round)
CBSSports 61st overall (late 2nd round)
PFF 89th overall (late 3rd round)
PFF called him a "wild card" in the draft at LB. PFF lists him with very poor pass coverage stats for 2020, with an 84.4% completion rate (27 completions in 32 targets) and a poor opposing QB passer rating.
Last year, Jim Nagy said that Surratt was more of a pure LB than Isaiah Simmons, the 8th overall pick in the draft.
Prior to the start of 2020, Mel Kiper had Surratt ranked 2nd among ILBs (behind only Dylan Moses).
Reportedly solid early in the week at Senior Bowl in practice. Held out of practices late in the week at Senior Bowl and didn't play in the game.
Degree in exercise & sport science, sport administration. Senior CLASS award nominee. MBA student.
A bit soft spoken. Competitive chess player as a youth when grade school age.
Dislocated his left elbow in high school.
Brother is Sage Surratt, an NFL draft prospect at WR from Wake Forest, expected to be an early round pick.
Explosive mover. Dynamic playmaker. Disruptive. Nose for the ball carrier, drawn to RBs and QBs like a magnet. Cat like quickness. Good play strength and hand eye coordination.
Good form tackles. Head up, facemask into target, tries to wrap up.
Continues to improve the more experience he has at LB. Arrow pointing up.
Speed and Athleticism
Very fast. Tremendous pursuit range, both to sideline and down the field. Too fast for the OL to block at 2nd level on some zone runs when going laterally.
LB is near the hash. RB running wide is about 2 steps ahead. LB runs all the way towards the opposite sideline and meets the RB about 5 yards from the LOS.
RPO with LG pulling to right side of offense. LB sees guard coming, loads up his arms and instantly sheds the block. The QB is running off tackle to the left side. LB pursues all the way from the opposite side of the formation, gets to the QB and makes a solid wrap up tackle.
Good spy against running QB. Triggers quickly when QB starts to scramble and arrives with urgency and bad intentions.
Great small area burst. Can redirect at speed. Runs by RT on blitz. QB draw up the middle. He turns 90 degrees in one yard of distance, closes to QB, then wraps up QB with secure 2 arm tackle limiting run to minimal gain.
Vision and timing to avoid traffic and knife through small gaps at LOS like snake in grass, busting into backfield like a rocket.
Closes from middle of field to flat very quickly to cut off RB's angle, stop scrambling QB, or get to receivers and sceens. Showing A gap blitz, he can turn and run to drop into coverage fast to get to spot deep from LOS.
Defeating Blocks and Run Defense
Excellent technique for stacking and shedding blocks. Sneaky move where he acts like he's going to stay put against a 2nd level block, but when the lineman is about to engage, Surratt suddenly jumps to a different spot.
2nd&3, LG trying to block him. LB jumps forward right when G is about to block him, continues to move forward, then makes a textbook wrap tackle on RB, completely stuffing him at the LOS for no gain. That's outstanding, you can't do it any better. Perfect example of what you don't see from that other LB I just profiled, Jabril Cox, or from Cory Littleton in the same situation. Those guys typically just stand still and get blocked.
RG pulls, LB does his sneaky jump to side and rips under with his arm, sending the RG flying by.
Outside zone run. Both the RG and LG go to 2nd level to block him. LB uses his hands to immediately shed the RG block but as soon as he does this the LG engages him. LB rips the LG's arms down, instantly shedding the 2nd block. Fantastic. He just shed 2 blocks in about 1 second of elapsed time. Like a drill in practice.
Two handed shove into chest of LG to shed block quickly, then helps to tackle RB. Uses hands to disengage from TE, fights over top of block and tackles RB. Nice strike to the chest of FB to defeat block, then tackles RB.
Ball on 4 yard line, trying to prevent a TD. RG pulling on power run. LB uses his outside arm to attack inside shoulder of guard and win to the inside. He gets himself square to the LOS them gobbles the RB up in the hole with a solid wrap tackle, stuffing the run for no gain.
Counter run pulling both the RT and RG. LB anticipates it and jumps inside of the pulling RT, penetrating cleanly into the backfield.
QB run wide, LB uses inside arm to rip under block by RG, flows over the top of the block quickly, contains the QB.
4th&1, RB gets handoff 4 yards deep in the backfield. At that instant, LB is about same depth off of LOS. LB explodes forward and meets RB square, half a yard from the line to gain. RB is completely stoned in hole, LB hits with head up, wraps up and gives up zero additional forward progress, preventing the first down.
Near the end zone, times run blitz well to bust into backfield and disrupt run play by crashing into gap where run was supposed to go, forcing it to bounce.
Stresses pass blockers, whether OL or the RB. Gets some heavy pressures on QB.
Strong for his size. "A gap" blitz, loads up and gets under pads of LG, lifting him onto toes, as if he's driving a blocking sled, pushing with his arms extended with lower leg power and pushing the LG back 5 yards from the LOS.
Runs over RBs. Even when blocked, contorts his body to get arm free to try to deflect pass or gain leverage to slip the block. Spins or uses his hands to try to disengage from pass blocker. Dives over cut blocks by RB, sometimes trying to grab QB while in midair. Used shoulder charge to run over Travis Etienne. A different play overpowers and throws off Etienne to nearly sack Trevor Lawrence.
Doesn't give up when blocked, keeps fighting hard to get to QB. RT blocks him, LB has active hands to engage, RB also blocking him, LB thumps him, eventually slipping by both blockers to get sack as QB moves from pocket. Drives RG back 3 yards, frees up his left hand and helps to sack the QB even with the guard still engaged.
Does dirty work to occupy blockers to try to set up another blitzer.
Dangerous on delayed blitz or dog when he sees RB staying in to block.
Causes near INTs by hitting QB's arm while fighting through blocker. One play should have been INT that he caused, but the pass bounced off of the CB's hands and went to the WR for a catch and a TD.
Dips inside shoulder under LT on blitz, bends the edge and angles towards the QB. Rips under RG to apply quick pressure on QB.
Motor and effort
High motor. Aggressive and physical. One play, chases QB nearly entire width of the field.
Times blitz well off edge, gets cut blocked by RB, but jumps over the top of it and still nearly sacks the QB. As the QB takes off scrambling, LB gets back up off the ground, and pursues the QB down the field. He's like the Terminator. He doesn't stop, he just keeps coming after you.
Good in Zone Pass Coverage
Instinctive in zone pass coverage. Experience as QB probably helps him with anticipation. Tries to read QB, squeezes passing windows. Jumps quickly and high to deflect passes both at LOS and as zone defender.
Good speed to carry go routes or seam routes vertically, even against WRs.
Drives quickly on stick route to break up pass or make immediate tackle after catch.
Reading and Reacting
Good recognition and awareness on some plays. TE fakes a block against the edge defender, then releases for a pass. Surratt sees this and races out to cover him. Normally finds ball with his eyes well. 3 way mesh by QB, RB and WR after snap. LB immediately recognizes that QB still has ball, and is already running in proper direction to cover pass to WR in flat before the ball even leaves the QB's hand.
Reading QB, anticipates shallow cross coming from other side of field and sprints towards it before QB begins to throw. This results in a very violent collision when Surratt buries his facemask into the back of the WR as the WR tries to make the catch. It looked like Surratt maybe had a concussion, because he was down on the turf for some time, and he rolled over with his head in his hands in child's pose, in obvious discomfort, but they let him return to the game and keep playing.
Similar play, reads QB and breaks towards slot WR towards opposite side of the field, taking 2 steps in that direction before pass leaves hand of QB, is there to try to tackle WR immediately as WR makes the catch.
He might not have been a great college QB, but he's athletic and has enough arm to play the position. I wonder if a team could use him as a different version of Taysom Hill and be a 2 way player. He could be a LB on defense and an extra RB or Wildcat type QB as a situational offensive player.
ST experience on the punt coverage unit. He was the protector on some punts. Since he was a QB and also is fast as a runner, this could make him very dangerous on fake punts. I wonder if he could even be the kickoff returner.
Undersized. Looks like if Taylor Rapp bulked up to try to play LB. Best fit is probably a 4-3 WILL. Doesn't have size and length to be versatile and play multiple LB positions and be as scheme diverse. I wonder if Surratt should even be playing LB at all. Maybe he should be playing S in the NFL. Mark Barron went from being a S to a LB. Surratt similarly might be a tweener who doesn't exactly fit at either of those 2 positions.
Slips off of many tackles. Not enough size and strength to stop bigger runners. 3rd&4, good form tackle, but can't stop QB from falling forward to pick up first down. Jamie Newman trucked him and planted him on his back on a short TD run. Bigger RBs can carry or drag him for extra yardage. Tries to drag RB down instead of driving through them and this results in him sliding off some tackles.
Can shed blocks against less talented linemen well, but this flips once he faces bigger and better OL players. Center drives him 4 yards backwards out of his gap and into DB, creating a huge run by the RB. C shoves him 3 yards back, he loses balance and can't make clean tackle on RB. Guard gets to him at 2nd level, LB tries to rip arms down, but it doesn't work. Guard grabs him and flings him to the ground like a rag doll.
Outside zone, combo block by LT. Surratt is driven at least 15 yards down the field (I can't tell the exact yardage, because he completely disappears off the screen from the TV camera angle.) Maybe the LT took him all the way to the Greyhound bus station and got him a ticket to Albuquerque. I'm not sure I've ever seen a defender get put on skates that badly. Like from the movie, The Blind Side.
Outside zone run, combo block by LT with long arms. LB gets stuck on block and completely sealed off, unable to move in the direction of the run.
Completely washed out of his gap near GL by center. Zone run, LG pushes LB way out of his gap.
Outside zone run, 3rd&8. As MLB, has center block him at 2nd level, shoving him to side and RB cuts back exactly into the spot where LB was supposed to be. Becomes a 52 yard TD run.
Needs to feel block coming so that he can prepare. Golf ball on tee when he's caught flat footed. TE coming across the formation on a power run. He doesn't sense it and doesn't load up. TE overpowers him and knocks him backwards.
Run up middle with RG coming straight at him. LB is too small to hold point of attack as guard shoves him to the side, widening the hole, making it more challenging for the S coming up in run support to make the tackle.
Bryce Perkins broke his tackle on a QB draw, but on other plays Surratt made nice tackles and brought Perkins down.
Overruns tackles. Too aggressive and plays too fast at times, not under control.
Abandons his coverage assignment to chase after the QB too soon. Covering RB in flat. QB vacates pocket and LB immediately goes after him. QB dumps it to wide open RB who runs for big gain.
Outside zone run. LB gambles and tries to backdoor combo block, but can't squeeze through gap at line and gets stuck. This allows the RB to run through hole unimpeded for 11 yard gain.
Tries to crash the pocket as blitzer with kamikaze speed. As he comes flying in fast, if the blockers can connect, they shove him, knocking him off balance and he goes bouncing off course, unable to redirect to the QB.
His game relies on his athleticism. If he gets tired or worn down, he's not as effective.
Late hit shoves on runners out of bounds multiple plays. Needs to learn to pull off and dial it back at the boundary to avoid penalties.
Daredevil style of play and small size could lead to numerous injuries. Already had multiple injuries, so could have long term durability risks.
Poor Run Fits and Mental Errors
Very inexperienced. Still learning the position. Might need a redshirt season in the NFL. Even if and when he does become a starter, could have substantial growing pains early on as he makes mistakes and tries to learn from them at the pro level. This could be a problem, because he's already 24 years old. Like RBs, many LBs don't have a long shelf life. If he's 26 or 27 before he's good, how many high quality seasons will he have in the pros before he declines or retires?
It is 3rd&17. Surratt is the edge containment defender. If he understands the run fit properly, he should know that there is a 100% unblocked safety in the gap immediately inside of him. RB draw up the middle, then the RB cuts back towards Surratt's side. If the LB forces the RB to stay inside, it is virtually impossible for them to get the first down, because they need 17 yards. Like a cat going after a piece of string or a mouse, Surratt cannot resist the temptation. See ball, go get ball. So, he goes forward, trying to get to the RB. The run bounces outside. Meanwhile, the S coming up in run support, thinking he's about to make the tackle, gets left hung out to dry. He's now out of position with no angle, because he thought the RB was going to be going inside of the LB. Surratt turns, races after the RB and brings him down from behind, making the tackle 17 yards from the LOS right at the first down marker. A tackle on his stat sheet, but it is an absolutely horrific mental error.
Inside zone run. As the MLB, he should know that the weakside LB standing right next to him isn't blocked. The math isn't hard. 3 defenders in his area and only 2 blockers. He can see the defensive lineman blocked right in front of him. He knows he's being blocked. It isn't rocket science. Your buddy standing right next to you is free. Try to force the RB towards him. Surratt should spill the RB towards the WILL by using his outside arm to go under the RT's block, attacking the inside edge of the block. Instead, he goes straight up on the RT and the RB runs up the middle. The other LB ends up just standing and watching with no chance at making the tackle.
3rd&4, WR comes in motion to his side of formation. LB late recognizing that he's responsible for flat area, leaving short out route wide open for easy first down conversion.
Gets fooled sometimes by misdirection plays.
Almost never is in man coverage. In passing situations, typically either dropping in zone in middle, used as spy or as blitzer.
Gets manipulated by eyes of QB. 3rd down pass. QB looks to his right. LB starts peeking in that direction, anticipating a route coming from that side and steps that way. When the QB turns and throws a slant from the other side of the field, the LB is now out of position. This is the double edge sword of what we saw above as a strength. If he guesses right and goes early, he can make a good play. This works against bad college QBs. NFL QBs are smarter. They aren't going to stare down the intended receiver every single time.
One of his INTs was easy one off of deflected pass at LOS.
Lost in coverage some plays, more so in 2019. Got fooled when TE pretended to block, then released for a pass.
Hips look like they might be a little tight for man coverage, but hard to tell, because there aren't many plays to watch.
Pro Comparison and Grade
Mychal Kendricks (2nd round 2012, Eagles). 2nd round grade.
Kendricks was 5'11'' tall, 239 pounds with 4.47 sec speed in the 40. He was in a very strong and deep 2012 draft class.
Surratt is a Tasmanian devil at linebacker. He's a problem for the other team. There's a big play waiting to happen with Surratt. You just don't always know if it is going to be for the defense or the offense. His athleticism, instincts and dynamic playmaking can generate TFLs, sacks, INTs, and fumbles. But, his inexperience and aggressive style can also result in missed tackles, pass coverage breakdowns and blown assignments.
I'm probably a bit higher on Surratt than some of the draft experts and where he'll eventually get picked, but I like this player's potential. He could end up being really good in the NFL. His brother had some injuries in college, but if his brother can stay healthy, I also think that his brother will be a good WR in the NFL.
Or, maybe I'm not higher on Surratt. Mel Kiper ranked him as the 2nd best ILB behind Micah Parsons on the Big Board in December of 2020. And Parsons is a potential top 10 pick. Nothing much should have changed since then. So, why do a number of boards have Surratt ranked behind several other LBs, including the first LB I profiled, Jabril Cox? Like every draft, but even more so in this odd draft season, it is anyone's guess how the NFL teams have these prospects ranked on their own draft boards. Maybe Surratt will end up being a 1st round pick. Or, maybe he'll go in about the 4th round. Who knows?
If Chazz Surratt is on the board when the Rams pick in the 2nd round, he might be on the short list for BPA. This goes back to the question I posed at the beginning. Is it worth drafting a LB like Surratt there? Or, should the Rams focus on other position needs instead?