Better Fit: Zack Baun or Josh Uche?
Two common names associated with the Lions in the second round of the NFL Draft have been EDGE prospects Josh Uche and Zack Baun.
Both played under the Lions' coaching staff at the Senior Bowl, and both could be considered "tweeners."
Baun might be a little higher rated on most draft analysts' big boards, and could potentially be a late first-round selection -- same can be said for Uche.
For the sake of the argument, we'll consider that both players will be on the board for the Lions at pick No. 35.
Let's take a look at what each player could provide to the Lions' defense.
Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Weight: 238 pounds
Arms: 32 and 6/8 inches
40-yard dash: 4.65 seconds
3-cone drill: 7.00 seconds
Baun played predominantly on the EDGE while at Wisconsin.
Of his 741 total defensive snaps in 2019, just 76 came as an off-ball linebacker -- the rest on the defensive line.
Despite his position in college, many pundits project him to be more of a stack linebacker that can be a pass-rush specialist at the next level.
Per Pro Football Focus, Baun dropped into coverage 195 times the last two seasons, and only gave up 112 yards while in coverage.
In terms of pass-rushing in that same time span, he generated pressure on 16.5 percent of his rushes -- tied for the sixth-highest rate.
In 2019 alone, he recorded 52 pressures, including 13 sacks.
Even at the Senior Bowl, Baun did great rushing the passer.
He also practiced some as a more traditional linebacker, and didn't look out of place.
In terms of a scheme fit with the Lions, he is on the smaller side of the scale -- even for an off-ball linebacker.
In comparison, the Lions' JACK backers are almost all at least 250-plus pounds, and have more overall length than Baun.
Josh Uche, LB, Michigan
Weight: 245 pounds
Arms: 33 and 5/8 inches
Unfortunately, with Uche, he only tested on the bench at the combine, and didn't do particularly well.
His 18 reps were nothing to write home about. But, when looking at how long his arms are -- which is very important to Detroit general manager Bob Quinn -- the low number of reps makes a little more sense.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attaining his full athletic measurements is unlikely.
Listed at 250 pounds while at Michigan, Uche appeared to drop some weight after the season to show a little more agility as an off-ball linebacker. And he is in the weight range that Lions head man Matt Patricia looks for in a linebacker.
Uche has more off-ball experience than Baun -- up to this point in their respective careers.
Despite Uche playing in 271 less defensive snaps than Baun in 2019, Uche still played 94 more snaps in the box.
Uche, like Baun, was used as an off-ball linebacker at the Senior Bowl, and had some of the better reps for coverage among the entire linebacker group.
The pass-rushing statistics for Uche weren't nearly as good as Baun's were in 2019.
But again, he wasn't used nearly as much.
According to PFF, Uche generated pressure on 23.3 percent of his pass-rush attempts in 2019, and had a win rate of 28.2 percent -- both of which ranked second among all FBS EDGE rushers.
Oddly enough, a lot of his pressures were from blitzes coming from the linebacker spot -- another reason some think his best spot in the NFL would be off the line of scrimmage.
From a rush-defense perspective, he doesn't set the edge all that well.
Given his smaller stature along the defensive front, it's not all that surprising.
However, it's another reason why he may be best suited in the box.
Ultimately, Baun may end up being drafted higher than Uche.
Both players have some nice potential, and it's more dealer's choice on which defender better fits the scheme deployed by the team that selects him.
For the Lions, either player would be a nice addition. But, Uche does seem like a better overall fit.
Uche has a bit more size, is a little more versatile and still has some of the best production rushing the passer from many different spots -- perfect for the Lions' hybrid linebacker role.
Those traits will not go unnoticed by the Lions' front office.