With the 2014 NFL Draft only a few months away, we reached out to some of the draft prospects we believe the Green Bay Packers could target in May. We’ve already heard from some talented defensive players in recent weeks, like Virginia’s Brent Urban and Louisville’s Preston Brown, but today, we hear from highly talented yet underrated South Carolina defensive end Chaz Sutton.
Sutton may fly under the radar a bit as a draft prospect, considering all of the attention his former teammates Jadeveon Clowney, Kelcy Quarles, and Victor Hampton have been receiving this spring. But watch any tape on South Carolina’s defense and you’ll see No. 90 also making plays on the field.
Sutton started all 13 games of the 2013 season at left end and generated four quarterback hurries, three sacks, and 8.5 tackles for loss. Sutton has a quick first step as an edge rusher and has the strength and size at 6-foot-4 and 265 pounds to hold the edge well against the run.
The Georgia native also has the athleticism to play upright as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. This versatility makes Sutton an intriguing prospect come draft day for a team like Green Bay who may be looking for more players that can generate pressure from both a two-point stance and with their hand on the ground as a pass rushing end.
To learn more about Sutton’s game and hear his thoughts on possibly playing in Green Bay, I spoke with him over the phone earlier in the month.
Q. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you first get into football, and what led you to play for South Carolina?
CS: I first started playing football by just playing around the neighborhood with kids and my brothers in Savannah, GA. I’d play in a field by a church near my grandparents’ house. I then started playing organized football in little league and just stuck with it from then on. I started getting recruited in high school, but I didn’t do well enough in high school academically to go to some of the schools I wanted to. I had to go to prep school after high school to get my grades up. I stayed there a semester and then I transferred to South Carolina.
Q. With the college season over, what do these next several months look like as you prepare for the draft in May?
CS: Right now, I’m in full training mode. I’m just focusing on getting ready for pro day. Working on getting myself better. Right now it’s all about Chaz. In college it was about my teammates, but now I have to work in improving myself for the job interview of my life this spring.
Q. What are part of your game are you working on improving before the draft?
CS: I have always considered myself an athlete, but I’m just working on moving in space better. Dropping my hips. Just using my hands more. I’m working on technique. Just studying more of the game looking for every chance I can get to get better. That’s what it’s all about. Just getting better in every way you can.
Q. You played with some pretty good defensive players in Jadeveon Clowney and Kelcy Quarles, but anybody watching South Carolina’s defense would also see #90 making plays on the field. Do you think you’re an underrated guy going into the draft?
CS: I don’t pay attention to that stuff. I don’t mind being the underdog, but I don’t care if I’m under the radar or not. I just go out there and do my thing. I’m just working hard. Just working through obstacles. You just do what you got to do. I don’t pay attention to mock drafts, draft projections, or any of that stuff because you never know how it will play out. It’s all about whether or not a team likes you. One team could like you and take you way ahead of where you’re “supposed” to go, or you may not get drafted where you were projected to be. So I can’t pay attention to that. I just go out there, work hard, and try to impress teams.
Q. For those who haven’t seen you play in college, describe your style of play? What are the strengths of your game?
CS: I’m just a guy that tries to fly around and play with an athletic instinct. I try to be around the ball as much as possible. If you’re around the ball a lot you’ll make plays. I watch film on myself and try to get better. I work hard and try to trust my instincts on the field.
Q. Are you more of a power or speed rusher off the edge?
CS: I’d say I’m a mix of both power and speed. I can create power and use leverage to my advantage. I can hold the edge, but I still can be a speed guy. I can come off the edge and be explosive, but I still have a lot of stuff to work on. I’d like to improve both my speed and power, but I’d say right now, I’m a mix of both.
Q. You played defensive end in college, but could you also transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 at the next level? What would be the challenges of this type of transition?
CS: Oh yes, I could play outside linebacker. I played linebacker in high school and plenty of other positions as well. They were even considering me at quarterback for awhile. I could most definitely play outside linebacker. I know exactly I could do it because I’ve rushed in both a two-point and a three-point stance. I’m also willing to learn any position or role my coaches want me to play. I’m not afraid of anything. If somebody drafted me and wanted me to play linebacker, I would learn it and work my butt off to be good at it.
Q. The Packers could be looking for more pass rushers in May. If they drafted you, what would you bring to the team?
CS: I’d bring confidence and a good work ethic. They’d be getting a guy that shows up to work and does his job. I’m not a “rah-rah” guy, but I could sit down with other players and teammates and talk with them. Give my point of view, and hear them out and learn from them. I’m the type of guy that does everything by the book. Busts his butt. I want to be a guy that other players can look at as somebody to model themselves after. I’m professional and carry myself well. I don’t take anything for granted and work hard at everything I do.
Q. How would you feel about playing in Green Bay?
CS: Oh man. It would be cold. Haha. I’m just a big fan of the heat, honestly. I’m from Georgia so I’m not used to freezing my fingers and ears, but in all honesty, I’d be happy to go anywhere. I just want to get my feet wet in the league. Just show teams I’m ready and willing to learn how to be successful at the next level. I’d be excited no matter who drafts me.
Q. What will be your mindset once you’re drafted and starting your NFL career with your new team?
CS: My mindset is to just be a sponge my first couple of years. Soak up as much information as possible. The more I do and learn the better I can be. I want to learn from the guys that have been there. Learn from the veterans. When I went to South Carolina, I got to know the guys that have been there before me and I made sure to learn the ropes of the school from them. That’s how I learn the system. My thing is going into a situation to be a sponge. Just be a student of the game and continue to learn and better myself.
Q. Are there any NFL players you watch and try to model your game after?
CS: I watch a lot of pass rushers. Guys just killing it on defense, but I wouldn’t say there is any one player I model my game after. I want to go in and make a name for myself. I’ll watch and learn things from great players like Demarcus Ware, Von Miller, Patrick Willis, J.J. Watt, and Clay Matthews. I try to watch what they do well and apply it to my own game. It might help me tweak my game a bit, but there isn’t any one player I study to be like. I just watch what I can and apply what I can to my game.
Q. What’s your favorite thing about playing defense?
CS: My favorite thing about playing defense is getting to the quarterback. It’s like one of the best things in the world. I don’t know what it is, but it feels great. When you beat your guy and get into the backfield . . . There’s nothing like it. All your hard work pays off.
Q. Who have been the most influential people in your life and have helped you get to this point?
CS: The most influential person has been my mother. I’ve seen her struggle a long time working job after job, trying to take care of me, my siblings, and her other kids. She works so hard just to provide for us, but she’s always so generous. Always taking care of others and supporting everybody.
At times it was hard. We didn’t always have enough to eat or enough resources to have lights on, but she always had a great attitude. She stayed positive, and I have learned from her to keep a positive attitude no matter what I’m going through. I try to model myself after her.
Q. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in your free time?
CS: I’m big kid. I like to go to the arcades, play video games, and have fun with friends. I like to make jokes. Just take a break from football and relax. I’m a cool guy to be around. Easy-going. There’s a lot of stuff to do and I’m pretty down with whatever.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like Packers fans to know about you before I let you go?
CS: I just want them to know I’m excited to play football!
Career college stats
2013 - 32 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 4 QB hurries, and 2 FF
2012 - 25 tackles, 7 TFL, 5 sacks, QB hurry, PBU, and 2 FF
2011 - 13 tackles, 3.5 TFL, sack, and a QB hurry
2010 - 5 tackles, TFL, and a 56-yd INT return for a TD
Film on Chaz Sutton
Chaz Sutton college highlights
Chaz Sutton against Vanderbilt (2013): 4 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, and a QB hurry
Watch more film on Chaz Sutton over at draftbreakdown.com.