North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt has had an uncommon path to the NFL.
Despite being a 24-year old red-shirt senior, Surratt is an inexperienced linebacker by any measure. That’s because he was recruited to UNC as a quarterback and played that position as a redshirt freshman and sophomore. Surratt’s redshirt sophomore year was delayed due to suspension (selling team-issued sneakers) and cut short to a wrist injury after just 10 pass attempts. That wrist injury needed surgery to fix and ended his season. He considered leaving the school to pursue opportunities to be a quarterback elsewhere, but was convinced to stay and to make the rare QB to LB transition.
It’s a move that payed off, and despite only having two years experience at linebacker, Surratt is quickly becoming a good one. He is smaller than the historic archetype for the position, but makes up for it with instincts, insight, and plenty of athleticism.
The New York Giants could always use another linebacker prospect, and having a player like Surratt could help solidify their coverage over the middle. Could he be in play for them on the second day of the draft?
Prospect: Chazz Surratt
Games Watched: vs. South Carolina (2019), vs. Syracuse (2020), vs. Miami (2020), vs. Virginia Tech (2020)
Height: 6014 (6-foot-1 1⁄2 inches)
Weight: 227 pounds
Arm Length: 30 inches
Hand Span: 9 1⁄2 inches
Games Played: 34
Tackles For a loss: 22.5
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 5
Games Played: 11
Tackles For a loss: 7.5
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 3
Best: Athleticism, range, versatility, football IQ
Worst: Experience, Size
Projection: A starting off-ball linebacker.
North Carolina’s Chazz Surratt is an undersized but athletic, instinctive, and productive linebacker prospect.
Surratt typically aligned as an off-ball linebacker in North Carolina’s defense usually aligning in the middle or to the weak side of the offensive formation. Surratt shows good communication skills in the pre-snap phase of the play, helping to communicate the defensive play and line up his teammates. He is a very patient linebacker at the start of the play, waiting for the offense and blocking scheme to declare itself before springing into action.
Surratt is comfortable playing in space, with good awareness and range to control a large coverage zone. Surratt’s background as a quarterback is evident in his coverage play. He routinely anticipates the offensive play as soon as the blocking scheme or route concepts declare themselves. He does a good job of reading quarterbacks’ eyes and reacting quickly to clog passing lanes. Surratt’s short-area quickness and football IQ, as well as a strong closing burst, make him disruptive at the catch point. He also shows great range and hustle in pursuit, running down plays from the opposite side of the field.
Surratt is also an effective and disruptive blitzing linebacker. That same sense of timing, understanding of blocking schemes, and closing burst make him an effective gap shooter from the second level. He is particularly disruptive on delayed blitzes, waiting a beat before starting his rush before attacking rushing lanes as they develop.
He is a willing run defender who doesn’t shy away from taking on blocks from offensive linemen when he needs to fill a gap or try to disrupt a play behind the line of scrimmage. Surratt generally takes safe angles to the ball when pursuing the play from off the line of scrimmage. He is a generally reliable tackler who is able to make plays off his frame thanks to his quickness and burst, and is a wrap-up tackler who gets the ball carrier on the ground.
Surratt is still new to the linebacker position, only having transitioned in 2019, and as such he is still learning the finer points of linebacker play. He is still developing the hand usage to successfully take on offensive line blocks and is much more successful when he can run around blockers as opposed to stacking and shedding. Likewise, he is a safe tackler but much more of a drag-down tackler than a thumping hitter. Surratt also has relatively limited size, which is an asset in that it doesn’t limit his athleticism, but he can be overwhelmed and swallowed up by blockers when he isn’t able to stay disengaged.
Overall Grade: 8.0 - This prospect has the traits to start in most NFL offenses, though further development is still needed to hit his ceiling.
Chazz Surratt projects best as an off-ball linebacker in a multiple defense.
Surratt is an athletic, rangy, instinctive, and productive linebacker prospect who should be able to start in a variety of modern defenses. He has the ability to drop (and be effective) in coverage, rush the passer, and play in run support. That being said, teams who ask their linebackers to routinely take on blocks from offensive linemen may want to look elsewhere. Surratt is a player who will be at his best when playing behind a defensive line that keeps him clean and allows him to flow to the ball.
Surratt’s background offers a unique path to a starting linebacker job. As a former quarterback he has a great insight into both the design of offensive plays as well as the mental processes at the quarterback position. That insight is evident on tape as he is able to play with patience while quickly deciphering plays and acting. Surratt is a very young linebacker as well, only having played the position for the past two seasons. His best football is almost certainly ahead of him as he further refines his game and learns the nuances and techniques needed to play linebacker at a high level.
Surratt has the potential to be an active off-ball linebacker in the mold of Ryan Shazier or Devin Bush with the right coaching.