2020 Raiders Draft Prospect
Name: Zack Baun
School: The University of Wisconsin
Weight: 235 pounds
Despite his lengthy frame, Baun utilizes surprising strength to his stops. His hands secure a sure grip and drives the target quickly to the ground. While not splashy or exciting, Baun’s meat-and-potatoes approach nets positive results and little yards after contact. Moreover, his presence of mind and knack for pass rushing will see his active hands around the quarterback, trying to dislodge the ball with an above-average chop that foes not prevent a technical wrap up.
In Madison, Baun rushed off the edge frequently. Yet, when he dropped into coverage, he appeared calm and comfortable in space. With receivers crossing his face or tracing to cover flats, or boundaries, the tools to cover at the next level are readily apparent.
As mentioned, off the edge, Baun beats blockers with a quick first step. Equally important, he shoots the gap on run plays, beating blockers off the snap. On top of that, when blitzing or pursuing backside, the former Badger standout closes well on the play. Additionally, he will break down efficiently, not tracing by the passer.
Where Baun should draw the Raiders in, is the ability to string together moves and bring a full repertoire to this trait. In blitz situations, Baun will rush under control, not just providing another body to traffic.
Can you remember a more limited group of Raiders linebackers? Regardless of the opponent or situation, the linebackers’ repeated failures stood out. For example, Nicholas Morrow and Tahir Whitehead blitzed a combined 58 times during the 2019 season. They pressured the quarterback only eight of those times, failing to record a single sack. By nature, you know that Jon Gruden wants his defense to bring some aggressiveness to the table. If two of your linebackers played an entire season without tallying a single sack, that becomes a major red flag. The Raiders need linebackers that effectively blitz.
While run-stopping remains a priority, the entire linebacker room should not contain strictly those type of players. In the NFL, teams know how limited the Raiders are in space. Baun’s diverse skillset will suit him well in the NFL. The Raiders need versatile linebackers. Fielding three run stoppers that can neither cover nor rush the passer lends itself to a mountain of constant issues.
In a three-down series, Baun can rush, string out the run or drop into coverage. Not to mention, his energetic approach, from an intangible level, raises the attitude of his team. Baun, not only is a talented player, but a glue guy. That is to say, his presence affects the overall mood of the team. Plus, you cannot have too many pass rushers, from different angles. Patrick Mahomes still exists in the AFC West and will need to be dealt with. Before the Combine, he profiles as a Day Two selection, that could fall right to the Raiders. While he rushed frequently, Baun could start as an every-down, 4-3 linebacker.