Why a Vikings Rookie LB Might See Action Sooner than Expected
It seemed like I was in a minority back on May 1st. When I was happy when we drafted a former Quarterback turned Linebacker out of North Carolina, with the 78th pick of the 2021 draft. There were players I’d have preferred to be selected first – namely Wyatt Davis, but Chaz Surratt was a player I was high on. We got Davis anyway too, which was great. Having been a quarterback at high school and two injury-ravaged years at college.
Two years of experience as a Linebacker makes Surratt a “project” player. He lacks in experience and knowledge of the position, but his natural ability and football acumen saw him learn quickly enough to be named first-team ALL-ACC. Which was followed by another good showing in 2020. In just two at his new position, Surratt notched up 206 tackles, 22.5 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and two fumbles recovered from 24 games. It’s fair to say the position was a success.
Unearthing a Gem
The question is, can the Vikings coaching staff coach him up? Can they turn that potential into a good NFL player? Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox selected him as our “surprise rookie gem” back in May. An opinion I share. I have confidence Surratt is the player who will surprise a lot of people from this year’s draft. He could make a mark early, but will only improve over time.
I found it intriguing when co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer was recently asked about his expectations for young players Chazz Surratt and Troy Dye. He answered by talking almost solely about Surratt. When asked if it was a case of starting from scratch with a player like Surratt? Zimmer junior remarked it was mostly about “getting his eyes in the right place” to allow his skills to flourish. Something he struggled with at the start of training camp, was looking in the wrong places made him look to be “playing slow”. Zimmer noted that they are seeing improvement, causing his game to pick up in speed.
On the Roster
Enough of an impression was made to secure a spot on the 53 man roster to start the season. As one of the seven linebackers, alongside Eric Kendricks, Anthony Barr, Nick Vigil, Troy Dye, Blake Lynch, and Ryan Connelly. The depth chart shows Surratt as the backup weak-side linebacker behind Nick Vigil. A free agent signing who is one of many acquisitions made this offseason sitting on a one-year contract. Vigil has the look of a dependable pro who won’t do much wrong but equally won’t do many eye-catching plays. Something his record of two interceptions, two sacks, and two forced fumbles across five seasons backs up. He spent the first four years of his NFL career at our Week 1 opponent the Cincinnati Bengals, where he eventually became a starter.
A move to the LA Chargers last year didn’t work out the way he would have wanted, where he was primarily in a backup role. Hence the move to pastures new in Minnesota. Nick Vigil will certainly start the season as the first choice weak side Linebacker, leaving Surratt’s initial chances to shine may come on Special Teams. Make an impression there, and at some point, a chance will come. When you use 3rd-Round draft capital on a player. You at least want a glimpse of what you have sooner rather than later. His athletic upside is clear to see, and he shows a knack for finding the football. Once he refines his positional skills, he has the ability to attain a starting position. Whether that comes this year or next remains to be seen, but I foresee a bright future for this rookie.