Going into the draft, I spoke at length on Mock Draft Monday about linebacker being a sneaky need for this team. After this season, you only have Eric Kendricks as a guy you can trust to be a 3 down player. While there is no true way to replace Anthony Barr, the future at SAM needed to be addressed sooner rather than later. Even if Anthony Barr ends up returning for 2022, depth at the position needed addressing with the loss of Eric Wilson and Ben Gedeon. How they went about adding depth to the linebacker room was quite the surprise. With their second selection in the third round at 78, the Vikings selected Chazz Surratt, who didn’t go to North Carolina as a linebacker.
A former Parade All-American and national player of the year, Chazz Surratt started 7 games at the position during his redshirt freshman season. During his second season as the starter, he tore a ligament in his wrist and saw his NFL dreams going up in smoke. He decided to make a drastic change and move to linebacker.
Throughout my entire life, I have seen college quarterbacks change positions during their college career and as they transition to the NFL. The majority of them end up a skill position player. Mostly at wide receiver or running back with the occasional tight end or cornerback. A mid-career transition to linebacker is almost unheard of. What he in those two seasons playing the positions was astounding. Two First Team All-ACC selections and the UNC defensive MVP award later Surratt blew away any and all expectations.
Positives: Having played quarterback, Surratt understands the importance of reading what’s in front of him. Just like quarterback, linebacker requires a high amount of discipline. At this point in his development, discipline is Surratt’s best trait at the position. He does a great job staying patient and reacting to what he sees.
I was very impressed by Surratt’s tackling ability. He does a great job staying disciplined and squaring up the ball carrier. Once he wraps up, it’s over.
In Mike Zimmer’s defense, it is a priority to have linebackers that can cover down the field. Surratt can do that very effectively. His film is littered with reps where he is running down the field with wide receivers.
One reason that I feel Zimmer was drawn to Surratt is his incredibly fluid athleticism. He asks Barr and Kendricks to show a double A-gap blitz and successfully drop into zone. Chazz can do just that and then some with this athletic profile and speed both vertically and sideline to sideline.
Negatives: As a player very new to the position, there are bound to be holes in his game. Due to the lack of experience, his instincts are almost non existent. He is only successful at this point reading and reacting. I have confidence that he will develop instincts as he grows into the position.
Far and away his biggest issue is his inability to shed blocks. Once the blocker engages, the rep is finished. Surratt has shown that he can’t use his hands to disengage nor has the strength to stop the initial surge or push back.
It isn’t just once the blocker engages, Surratt doesn’t have the power to win against powerful blockers. In the below clip, fellow Vikings selection Christian Darrisaw flattened him with just one punch. He was on the ground a lot in that game and instances like that were not few and far between
The transition from quarterback makes him a fascinating prospect because he is far from a finished product. What was evident on film is that while as raw as sushi, the potential paired with the skills he has developed so far makes him a very intriguing player for Mike Zimmer to develop. What I see is that I don’t know if he can grow in the ways he needs to as a linebacker. If he transitions to a slot/safety hybrid type role, that might be his best path of success in the NFL.
During my watch, I graded Surratt as a 4th round player. He isn’t anywhere close to being a day 2 player when it comes to shedding blocks and being an instinctual player. His excellent athleticism, tackling ability, and ability to read and react do make him worthy of being a third round selection. If you value the tools highly enough to where you believe your coaching staff can develop him, this could be a home run for the Vikings.
|Sideline to Sideline||8.5/10|
|Grade||71.5/100 Fourth Rounder|