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LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson out to separate fact from fiction at the NFL level

LSU linebacker K'Lavon Chiasson celebrates during the Peach Bowl against Oklahoma.
Louisiana State linebacker K’Lavon Chaisson is eager to clear up a number of aspects about his game as he looks to excel at the NFL level.
(Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

K’Lavon Chaisson isn’t quite sure where the misconceptions started. But with the draft approaching and the day he’s waited all his life upon him, there are a few rumors the Louisiana State star edge rusher would like cleared up.

First among them: No, he didn’t just start playing football in high school. Chaisson took his sophomore year off at North Shore High in Houston to play basketball, and for some reason, scouts ran with the assumption that he was new to the game. But make no mistake, Chaisson says, he’s a football lifer. When he returned as a junior, he immediately became a five-star recruit, as if he’d never left.

“That rumor has to be stopped,” he said in February.

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Then, there’s the more pressing matter of his pass-rushing prowess. While many view the freakish 250-pounder as the most talented sack artist in this draft outside of Ohio State’s Chase Young, some prognosticators suggest Chaisson’s pass rush is predicated purely on speed.

He’s got plenty of that, sure. But the assumption that he doesn’t have much else upsets him.

The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

“They obviously don’t watch film,” he explained. “I know I’m definitely more than a one-dimensional player. I’ve got speed, power, finesse. Whatever you want, I’ve got.”

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That stellar mix of skills never quite amounted to eye-popping sack numbers at LSU. Although he missed two games with an ankle injury, Chaisson tallied 6½ sacks last season to lead a title-winning Tigers defense, 10 fewer than Young contributed at Ohio State.

But Chaisson is quick to remind that sack totals only tell you so much. Just look at Danielle Hunter, another freakish LSU alum, who left the Tigers with just 4½ career sacks. Now with the Minnesota Vikings, Hunter has 29 combined sacks over his past two Pro Bowl seasons.

Plus, pass rushing is only a part of his game. After missing most of the 2018 season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee, Chaisson set out in 2019 to prove he could do it all.

He believes it has made him the most valuable player in the draft, regardless of what any stats might suggest.

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Colorado molded its offense around Laviska Shenault Jr.'s playmaking skills, which he says help him stand out among receivers in the 2020 NFL draft.

“Every game, my impact is being felt,” Chaisson said. “I tell guys all the time. I’m not just a pass rusher. I play the run from stunt games. I play the run from hemming 350-pound linemen up. I’m playing in coverage. I’m an all-around player. So to label me only by my pass production? Even if I’m not getting sacks with my pressures and hurries, any offensive linemen I’ve gone against, they’ve felt my presence. I’m not worried about the production stats.”

Where Chaisson is selected in this year’s draft will have a lot to do with whether NFL teams feel the same. Projections have placed Chaisson anywhere from the top 10 to the tail end of the first round.

Whoever takes that chance, Chaisson wants them to understand they aren’t picking a finished product.

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“Everything that I’ve done so far has just been raw talent,” Chaisson said. “I’ve gotten some coaching, but from a scale of 1-10 I’m probably at like a 3 right now. There is so much more I could get better in and I feel like right now I’ve gotten this far just off raw talent. And the skill set, when it comes to coaching and the veterans teaching me the game, I feel like there is no ceiling to my game.”


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