ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. on Zack Baun's Versatility, Chris Orr as "Tremendous Athlete"

Jake Kocorowski

Another pair of Wisconsin linebackers look to make an impact at the next level this season, and one longtime NFL Draft analyst provided some positive feedback this week.

Mel Kiper Jr. spoke with reporters -- just under a month away from the annual extravaganza that takes place on April 23-25 -- to answer their questions about various prospects and his evaluations. 

AllBadgers.com received an opportunity to ask Kiper a question regarding which teams could be the best fit for linebacker Zack Baun, who earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors after recording a team-leading 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss in 2019.

The first thing he called out about the Brown Deer, Wis., native was his versatility. He also alluded to a couple of AFC franchises that could be intriguing options in utilizing his skillset. 

“Inside, outside linebacker’s both a possibility," Kiper said. "I think he would fit with what the New England Patriots like to do. I think he’s a Bill Belichick-type of player. I’ve always looked at a guy with versatility favorably, and certainly he brings that. I think the Patriots would be a possibility for a guy like Baun. They pick at (No.) 23. I think the Baltimore Ravens at (No.) 28 love versatile guys as well. I think they would be a possibility for Baun. If you’re looking at two really good spots, two really good fits, it would be New England at No. 23 or Baltimore at No. 28. 

"Like I said, his versatility to be a guy who can play outside as a pass rusher. He can be inside in your base. Pass rush situations, third down situations, he can be on the outside. He gives you that. He’s got a great attitude, great approach. He hustles. He’s a team guy, a great attitude. Players love him. I think he would be a great pick in that late first-round area like I said, either to New England or Baltimore.”

AllBadgers.com did not receive the opportunity to ask Kiper about another Wisconsin captain and leader of the defense, inside linebacker Chris Orr. The DeSoto, Tex., native impressed during UW's pro day on March 11 inside the McClain Center. 

Orr ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash, bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times.  Even more eye-popping, however, is looking at a few other drills he participated in. According to NFL.com's combine tracker, his 4.08-second 20-yard shuttle would have been tops among the linebacker group in Indianapolis. His 6.99-second three-cone drill would have placed him fifth, and his 36.5" vertical jump would have had him ranked eighth. 

However, Kiper in unprompted fashion mentioned Orr and his family, stating that he scouted Terry Orr at Texas. That was before the elder Orr went on to an eight-year NFL career from 1986 to 1993 that included two Super Bowl championships. He also discussed the lineage of the family that included Chris' brother, Zach, and his brief career with the Baltimore Ravens.

Kiper believes Chris should have been in Indianapolis.

"Chris Orr did a heck of a job," Kiper said. "He had the ACL (injury) early in his career (in 2016), came back from that and really had a phenomenal final campaign with Wisconsin. Great kid. Look at his productivity at Wisconsin this year. Look at the pro day he had running a 4.65 (second 40-yard dash). Tremendous athlete. Strong, great kid. Players rave about him as well. Where they rave about Zack Baun, they rave about Chris Orr. 

"Should have been at the combine, wasn’t."

In 2019, Orr ranked second on the team in tackles (78), tackles for loss (14) and sacks (11.5) on way to a consensus second-team all-conference selection to end his career at UW. Kiper believes the Badger 'backer could hear his name called later next month and could have a productive career at the next level. 

"I’ve talked a lot about him this year, and I think he’s going to be a nice later-round draft choice who ends up making a team and contributing heavily to an NFL team," Kiper said. 

"I’d like to have Chris Orr on my team.”

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