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2020 NFL Draft Prospect: OLB Zack Baun

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One of the most versatile players in this year’s draft class could be available at pick #28 for the Ravens

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 07 Big Ten Championship Game Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine soon approaching, NFL coaches, general managers, and fans will get a better idea of whose draft stock will rise as well as fall. Wisconsin OLB Zack Baun will be an attendee of the combine and will most likely play on Sunday, March 3rd, where he will work with the defensive linemen and linebackers. Baun is one of the most unique prospects of this 2020 NFL Draft class. He is coming out of Wisconsin where for the past two seasons, he has shown very impressive production, especially this past year, where he demonstrated his ability to dominate games. Baun led the entire Wisconsin Badgers team in sacks and tackles for loss. Baun also participated in this year’s Senior Bowl game where he put together a strong showing.

Baun’s ability to play multiple positions adds value to his draft stock. A team like the Ravens, where defensive coordinator Wink Martindale utilizes players with versatility, would be a wonderful spot for Baun to begin his career. With uncertainty surrounding the futures of Josh Bynes, Patrick Onwuasor, and Matt Judon, drafting Baun should make those potential losses a little easier to overcome.

Wisconsin OLB Zack Baun

Height: 6’2 Weight: 235

2019 Stats: 52 solo tackles, 23 assisted, 12.5 sacks, 19.5 TFL, 2 FF, 1 INT, 2 PDs, 1 TD

What made Baun such a special player while at Wisconsin was his versatility. His ability to have an impact at each spot allowed him to become well-rounded in many different areas. Baun was also the leader of the Wisconsin defense where he was called upon to make a play when needed, and he often delivered. Baun should be immediately productive in the NFL while still improving in other areas of his game.

Strengths:

  • Has tremendous instincts and a very high football I.Q.
  • Baun is one of the nation’s most versatile players and won’t be a scheme dependent player in the NFL
  • Plays with great anticipation and does a phenomenal job of reading the quarterback’s eyes in coverage
  • Has a nonstop motor and goes full speed every time he’s on the field
  • Baun has demonstrated a knack of getting to the quarterback and has some savviness in his pass-rushing ability; he has a very nice spin move
  • While at Madison, Baun was tasked to frequently and naturally drop into coverage where he was very effective
  • Shows great anticipation while in coverage as demonstrated with his ability to defend passes as well as grab interceptions
  • Has the speed and athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends one-on-one
  • Excels in blitzing the quarterback and often found weak spots along the offensive line to exploit
  • Very good tackler as well as a mean tackler, and his speed at the point of attack gives the runner a very small chance of getting out of his grasp
  • Baun gave Ohio State QB Justin Fields nightmares in the conference matchup this past season; whenever Baun was involved, Fields often found himself on the ground
  • A very strong block-shedder because of his quick hands
  • Has a very fast pursuit as shown by his speed to the ball
  • Has natural edge-rushing ability; he sinks well to get around the edge

Weaknesses:

  • Doesn’t have the size to be a full-time edge rusher
  • Needs to be a better open-field tackler; he doesn’t have the short area agility or long arms to excel in that area
  • Wins with effort and athleticism rather than pure skill
  • He sometimes gets swallowed up by blockers and has a difficult time of getting out of their grasp
  • Sometimes has a predictable pass-rush move and gets taken out of the play
  • Baun over-pursues after rushing around the edge; the quarterback has no problem stepping up in the pocket after Baun overshoots his rush

Zack Baun Floor Comparison: Haason Reddick

Zack Baun Ceiling Comparison: Kyle Van Noy

How Baun fits on the Ravens:

The bottom line about Baun is that he will be an immediate producer wherever he ends up getting drafted. Baun is a bonafide Swiss-army knife and has demonstrated his ability to play the edge, outside linebacker, the WILL linebacker spot (where he practiced during Senior Bowl practices), and could possibly even play inside linebacker. Regardless, the Ravens would use him in multiple ways in order to maximize his production. Moreover, he would also fill a need along the Ravens’ linebacking core, which may look much different next year depending on the decision Matt Judon makes in free agency.

The main issue with Baun potentially being a Raven is that he wouldn't immediately solve the issue at edge rusher. Despite being very productive in college as pass rusher, Baun would still have to refine his pass-rushing skills to be impactful. In other words, Baun would most likely get most of his rookie year sacks from blitzing and effort. That still leave a hole in the edge rush department and getting sacks from a player who can beat an offensive lineman outright, with either power or finesse, and get to the quarterback. The Ravens’ wouldn't be getting that type of player in Baun, but Baun’s ability to do many things on the field and be impactful in the process gives Eric DeCosta plenty to think about should Baun be available at pick #28 in the first round.