While Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman had one of the best drafts this offseason, one curious selection in the third round confused me the more I examined it: Chazz Surratt.
The Vikings tend to draft certain kinds of players.
Teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, and the George Paton-led Denver Broncos stick to proven players who have a greater chance of having an immediate impact. These players tend to be older because they had more time in college, but it can vary.
Others, like the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, and Baltimore Ravens, have a habit of looking for guys with superstar potential in need of proper development. These players tend to be younger to compensate for the time they’ll spend on the sidelines refining their game.
So when Troy Vincent announced the Vikings had selected Chazz Surratt with the 78th pick, I immediately went on Google to see what kind of player they were getting. The scouting report left me flabbergasted.
He’s a former quarterback who played in high school and threw for 3,563 yards and 51 touchdowns before injuring his non-throwing arm. He would later attend UNC, starting seven games and throwing for 1,342 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions his sophomore year. The following year he only started one game before freshman Sam Howell took the starting job. Surratt switched to linebacker his junior year* and blew up big time, finishing with 115 tackles, 6.5 sacks, and an interception.
So it’s clear he’s still a raw talent, which is fine and dandy until you realize that he’s already 24 years old. If he ends up being a home-run pick, he’ll be 28 years old when his rookie contract is up.
The main question that popped into my head was: Why even bother!?
Taking a chance on someone so old yet so inexperienced, who has a slim chance of actually succeeding, is mind-boggling to me. Especially taking him over guys like Baron Browning, (third round, pick 105) Jabril Cox, (fourth round, pick 115), and Dylan Moses (undrafted), who was once considered by some to be a first-round talent before injuries set him back.
Mike Zimmer liked something about Surratt enough to draft him above those aforementioned guys. So what can Surratt offer the Minnesota Vikings’ defense?
According to Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, one of Surratt’s strengths is his athletic ability. He ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at his pro day and completed 27 reps on the bench press at a pre-draft workout. Surratt also shows good lateral quickness on the field, so it shouldn’t be an issue for him to move from the second level. He’s also a tough player who isn’t afraid of contact. He has an incredibly strong motor, which is the biggest reason he had such a productive year at UNC.
Despite all that, there are still questions about his game. Surratt weighs only 229 lbs., which is undersized for a linebacker. He also has a bit of an injury history, having torn ligaments in his left wrist and right elbow, missed a couple of games, and, most notably, collapsed on the field without contact. He also has short arms, limiting his range and vertical jump and may inhibit his ability to make interceptions. As athletic as he is, there are concerns that his body may be maxed out, so what you see may be what you get. His discipline in the run game is a major issue, and he frequently takes poor angles due to his lack of experience playing linebacker.
Surratt reminds me of a poor man’s version of Anthony Barr. Granted, Barr was 22 when he was drafted with the ninth-overall pick by the Vikings in 2014. It just so happens that Barr will be a free agent this offseason after restructuring his deal, which saved the team $2.9 million. I think the Vikings preferred taking a chance on a more raw prospect and having him sit for a year so that, by the time Barr leaves in free agency, Surratt will be competing for a starting job — at least in an ideal world.
Perhaps there’s more to this pick than meets the eye. Surratt has experience playing QB in high school and college, so it’s plausible that the Vikings value him as an emergency quarterback. After all, he was the 11th-ranked dual-threat quarterback in his class. It would be pretty damn cool if he ended up being the future of the franchise, but the chances of that happening are slim to none.
There are many unknowns about Chazz Surratt and how he’ll turn out, but one thing is for certain: He’s not a perfect prototype, for better or worse.
*This post originally stated he moved to linebacker after his senior year. He moved after his junior year. We regret the error.