Wisconsin LB Zack Baun could be a human chess piece for the Kansas City Chiefs

Jordan Foote

Zack Baun - linebacker, Wisconsin 

By the numbers:

6’2”, 238 pounds. 4.65 40-yard dash. 32-¾” arms. 32.5-inch vertical jump.

75 tackles (19.5 for loss), 12.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception in 2019.

Positives:

The first thing that teams will notice when evaluating Zack Baun is his athletic ability. He possesses good footwork and the ability to move laterally with ease. His movements can be best described as explosive, rather than calculated. He’s also an intelligent linebacker for someone who’s undergone some position changes in the past. Despite moving from quarterback to EDGE and, now, EDGE to off-ball linebacker, he’s handled the changes well.

That positional versatility is a huge plus in the eyes of many NFL defensive coordinators. While Baun was terrific when rushing the passer for Wisconsin this past season, his future probably lies as a WILL or SAM linebacker. His speed and agility should make that transition an easy one, as he’s already shown he can keep up with opposing tight ends. Baun can be utilized in various roles throughout many subpackages at the next level.

Negatives:

One downside of Baun’s versatility is that he doesn’t have a clear-cut best position. His size and strength as an EDGE at Wisconsin were enough, thanks to his athleticism, but in the NFL, that alone won’t cut it. His athletic advantage as an EDGE takes a hit when moved to an off-ball linebacker spot but with his football IQ and lateral quickness, that’s probably the best spot for him.

Baun also has a ways to go before he’s at his ceiling. While this could be seen as a strength to some teams, others in win-now mode may want a more finished product. As he adjusts to likely switching positions, he still has a lot to learn in regards to zone depth and what he can and can’t do in man coverage. He relies more on his speed and finesse than skill in pass rush situations, so his arsenal could use some improvement.

How Baun fits with the Chiefs:

Steve Spagnuolo would like Baun. He can be tossed into the fire as a WILL linebacker from day one and put his athleticism and brain to good use. In Spags’ unique subpackages, he can rotate Baun down to EDGE and unleash him on bigger, slower offensive linemen. As a former quarterback, Baun is a quick learner and has a great understanding of how offenses try to work against him.

Final Thoughts:

Baun’s ceiling in terms of draft position is probably the final 10 picks of the first round. On the other hand, he could also slide well into the second. If the Kansas City Chiefs are looking for a chess piece to add into their linebacker/pass rush rotation, Baun makes a lot of sense for them.

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