In the coming weeks and months I will be breaking down potential prospects for the Dallas Cowboys to determine their strengths, weaknesses, and potential fit with the organization. Today, take a look at a former Wisconsin Badgers defensive playmaker who the Cowboys could consider drafting in the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
NAME: Zack Baun
CONFERENCE: Big Ten
CLASS: RS Senior
JERSEY: No. 56
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3 star
Highlights of Zack Baun from his career with the Badgers…
Zack Baun is an ascending player capable of playing multiple positions in any defensive scheme at the next level. He’s a twitchy, explosive athlete with a nonstop motor. Never quits on a play. Can be utilized as an off ball linebacker or as an edge rusher in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. Shows good first step quickness as an edge rusher and good read and react instincts as a linebacker. One of the best special teams players in the Big Ten.
Looks smooth in his drops and shows good fluidity in his hips when in pass coverage. Excellent speed to play sideline to sideline. Has good ankle flexion and bend when rushing the passer. Good hand fighter. Fights off blocks and works through traffic. Doesn’t get caught up in the trash. Good finisher as a tackler. Good in pursuit and takes proper angles. Never takes a play off, always competing.
The biggest concern about Zack Baun is where he fits in the NFL. Would he fit better in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme? Is he an off ball linebacker or an edge rusher? Can he play with his hand in the dirt as an every down DE in a 4-3 or is he best suited to play as an outside linebacker in a 3-4? Whoever drafts him will have to have a clear plan how to utilize his skill set and versatility.
His less than ideal length and size may keep him from becoming an every down DE. Can get engulfed by offensive lineman if he doesn’t win off the snap with this initial quickness/explosion. Needs to develop a more diverse pass rush repertoire. Needs to play more under control in the open field. Only one season of true pass rush production.
For a team that is in desperate need of upgrading their defense, Zack Baun is definitely somebody the Dallas Cowboys could utilize and play at a number of positions. His scheme diversity and position flex makes him a valuable chess piece Mike Nolan — the Cowboys new defensive coordinator — can deploy throughout his front seven if he is indeed planning on using a hybrid 3-4, 4-3 defensive scheme.
Baun can play any linebacker position in my opinion and rush off the edge as either an outside linebacker in a 3-4 or defensive end in a 4-3. I believe he can even be matched up with tight ends in the passing game. That’s not even mentioning the fact he would be a core special teams player as well. He’s a player who should rarely come off the field and someone the Dallas Cowboys should definitely target in the first-round, either at 17 or in a trade back situation.
Pro Comparison: Clay Matthews