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2021 NFL Draft Profile: UNC ILB Chazz Surratt

If the Broncos are looking to secure another LB, they might consider this explosive Tarheel who has experience on both sides of the ball

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North Carolina State v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Meet Chazz Surratt, UNC Tarheels’ linebacker who delivered 91 tackles (49 solo, 42 assisted), six sacks, three passes defended, an interception, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery this past season.

After successfully transitioning from the quarterback position in 2019, Chazz received a first-team All-ACC selection two years in a row and has displayed remarkable athletic range.

With Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell slated to start at the inside linebacker positions, the defense already seems to be on track for 2021; but those starters’ contracts will be up in 2022, and there’s no harm in adding weapons to the arsenal.

Background

Originally recruited to play quarterback for UNC, Surratt was redshirted in 2016 in favor of Mitch Trubisky.

In 2017 he appeared in nine games with seven starts, contributing 1342 passing yards (a team high), 107 completed passes (58.5% completion rate), eight passing touchdowns, and five rushing touchdowns.

Surratt also started one 2018 season game. Between injuries and swapping out with other quarterbacks, he spent most of the season redshirted again.

Although his quarterback skills were nothing to scoff at, Surratt made the switch to linebacker after the 2018 season. He says the decision came after a lot of thought about his future in the sport.

“...Me and my parents talked about it,” Surratt recounted in a featured video from UNC, “And they felt as well as I did that the best path for me was to go play on the other side of the ball, play defense...you know, I knew I was athletic, knew I could physically do it. It was just a matter of putting the time in and work to go out there and play and be successful.”

It looks like his drive to play and be successful has not gone unnoticed, considering he’s a top Draft prospect for 2021.

“There aren’t many people that walk the earth that have the combination of skills that he does,” said UNC defensive coordinator Jay Bateman, per FanNation.

Both Chazz and his little brother Sage (WR, Wake Forest) are heading into the Draft season with high hopes.

Chazz’s stats

Height: 6’2” / Weight: 225 lbs / Speed: 4.60 40-yard dash

2020 (LB): 91 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception

2019 (LB): 115 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception for 3 yards

2018 (QB): 1 game with 4 completions for a 40% completion rate, 1 rushing TDs

2017: 9 games, 107 completions for a 58.5% completion rate, 8 passing TDs, 1342 passing yards, 5 rushing TDs, 210 rushing yards

What Surratt can bring to Denver

  • Notable pass-rush skills. With six sacks in 2020 and six and a half sacks in 2019, Surratt seems to have no problem forcing quarterbacks into mistakes.
  • Adaptability. Changing from quarterback to linebacker (arguably the most physical position on the field) is almost unheard of, but Surratt finished the season as a runner-up for the ACC defensive player of the year award.
  • Passion. Of course, anyone who makes it to the NFL Draft has a level of passion; but looking at Surratt’s career, you see a guy who wanted nothing more than to keep his dreams alive and keep playing football. Even if that meant training for a completely new, more physically-demanding role.

Possible drawbacks

I’m not going to highlight anything from his quarterback career. Surratt’s not trying to be drafted as a quarterback. As a linebacker, however, there are a few items of concern:

  • Tackling force. Watching the tape there are times he’ll grab someone to drag them down and they’ll break away. This has already improved since he switched to ILB position and will likely continue improving.
  • Size. At 6’2” and 225 lbs, Surratt’s not a huge guy by any means. This puts him at a disadvantage to other linebackers and it shows when blocks are being used against him.
  • Speed. At a 4.6 40, Surratt’s speed is about average. This isn’t exactly a negative, but it doesn’t put him ahead of the competition. Micah Parsons, no. 1 ranked linebacker going into the Draft, has a 4.39 speed.

The buzz around Surratt

  • Mel Kiper ranked him #3 linebacker going into the Draft
  • ESPN ranked him #6 linebacker going into the Draft
  • PFF’s Michael Renner wrote:
    “After switching from quarterback — of all positions — to linebacker just a couple of years ago, Surratt made his presence felt quickly in the Tar Heels’ defense. He racked up a ridiculous 56 stops in his first season as a starter but had a disastrous missed-tackle problem. That was something that had to get cleaned up in 2020, and he did, with only one miss in his final five games (47 attempts). He’s still not the most adept at his run reads and fits between the tackles, but he’s a playmaker with modern-linebacker athleticism.”
    Pro Football Focus
  • Draft Network analyst Joe Marino wrote:
    “Surratt is an exciting package of size, mobility, and physicality, but there are times studying his tape when you are reminded that he is still new to the position. Surratt will need to continue developing at the position and if he does, he has the makings of a starting pursuit-style linebacker that can make plays on every down.”
    The Draft Network
  • NFL content writer Chase Goodbread wrote:
    “Now in his second season on the other side of the ball, scouts agree Surratt is far better equipped for the NFL as a linebacker than he ever was as a quarterback. The speed he used as a dual-threat passer for the Tar Heels in 2017 is now what he utilizes to chase down sweeps and blanket receivers on third down. He’s using a quarterback’s understanding of offensive football to help him anticipate play calls and make plays at linebacker.”
    NFL

Does he fit with Denver’s secondary?

Any good defensive player studies offensive plays. A good offensive player will study the defense. When that player actually has experience on both sides of the field, it adds a rare layer.

Surratt’s field reading isn’t perfect, but his history as a quarterback really shines through - especially with plays directly involving quarterback upsets. His sacks and interceptions are perfect examples of this.

The knowledge he’s gained from the positions isn’t as important to me as the drive, though. A player’s ceiling rides largely on talent, but just as much on hunger and relentlessness.

Once Surratt really gets a handle on reading an offense and making those perfect tackles, he’s going to be unstoppable. And I fully believe he will reach that point, simply because he wants it badly enough and will not stop training for it.

At any rate, he has a lot to offer the NFL. If Paton feels like he belongs in Denver, I’ll easily root for him.

Poll

Should the Broncos draft Chazz Surratt?

This poll is closed

  • 63%
    Yes
    (238 votes)
  • 36%
    No
    (139 votes)
377 votes total Vote Now