Saints Draft Prospect: LB Zack Baun

Bob Rose

New Orleans Saints All-Pro linebacker Demario Davis has established himself as one of the NFL’s best defenders during his two seasons with the New Orleans Saints. While Davis anchors the defense, questions surround the rest of the team’s linebacking corps. Fourth year linebacker Alex Anzalone is a talented and athletic defender but has missed 29 of his team’s 53 games with shoulder injuries. Veteran linebacker Kiko Alonso has a long injury history of his own and is on the mend from a torn ACL suffered in the Saints playoff loss to the Minnesota Vikings. Coaches love the potential of 2nd year linebacker Kaden Elliss, but he is still unproven after injuries limited him to just three games during his rookie campaign.

Besides durability concerns, the Saints have a few contract decisions to make at this position after the year. Davis, Anzalone, Alonso, and versatile backup Craig Robertson will all be free agents at the conclusion of the season, and the team already lost A.J. Klein in free agency this offseason. With linebacker being one of the areas the Saints are expected to address in this month’s draft, there are as many as four who could be drafted in the first round. Today’s draft profile looks at one of those potential stars.

Zack Baun, LB (Wisconsin) 6’2 238-Lbs.

Nov 24, 2018; Madison, WI, USA; Minnesota Golden Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan (2) throws a pass under pressure from Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Zack Baun (56)vduring the first quarter at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Baun was the state of Wisconsin’s Offensive High School Football Player of the Year as a quarterback at Brown Deer H.S. in Brown Deer, WI before committing to the home-state Badgers as a linebacker. After redshirting a year he collected 15 tackles as a reserve during the 2016 season, but missed all of 2017 with a foot injury. He returned to start all thirteen of Wisconsin’s games in 2018 and recorded 63 tackles (7.5 for loss), 2.5 sacks, and an interception. Baun finished his Badgers career on a high note, tallying 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. He also forced 2 fumbles and intercepted a pass on his way to 1st team All-Big 10 and 2nd team All-American recognition.

NFL Scouting Combine Statistics

  • 40-Yd dash = 4.65
  • Bench Press = 24 reps (3rd among linebackers)
  • Vertical jump = 32.5”
  • Broad jump = 115”
  • 3-cone drill = 7.0 (5th among linebackers)
  • 20-Yd shuttle = 4.31 comparison (via Lance Zierlein) =Kyle Van Noy (Dolphins)

Feb 27, 2020; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun (LB03) speaks to the media during the 2020 NFL Combine in the Indianapolis Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Wisconsin often used Baun as a stand-up edge rusher but he projects as a strongside linebacker for the NFL. He has good upper body strength but is too light to be a regular edge rusher. He can get overmatched against bigger linemen in one-on-one battles. Baun struggles to keep blockers off his legs along the outside, sometimes taking him out of the play. Partially because of his inexperience in the role, he can lose track of the ball in down field coverage responsibilities. As a blitzer he is limited with counter moves if his initial rush is blocked.

LB Zack Baun, New Orleans Saints Draft Prospect
Nov 16, 2019; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers quarterback Adrian Martinez (2) runs against the Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Zack Baun (56) in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Baun plays with a relentless motor. His bend around the corner and explosiveness on the edge gave Big 10 offensive tackles fits. He has a fast first step off the snap to create disruption in the opposing backfield and has both the strength and balance to hold the edge at the point of attack. During an engagement with tackles, Baun shows good upper body movement to gain advantage. Though inexperienced, he has the speed and athleticism to stay with running backs or tight ends in coverage and has a smooth natural drop into zones. Baun has a good lateral slide along the line of scrimmage to fill gaps and is fast and decisive in backside pursuit. He’s a disciplined open field tackler with good closing speed to the ball carrier.

Baun has a high upside, with the natural instincts and athleticism along with the football IQ to evolve into an every down linebacker. He’s a potential late-1st round pick who could be an immediate contributor and long term starter for a much-improved Saints defense.