(Editor's Note: While the start of the 2020 NFL Draft isn't until April 23, it's never too early to profile some of the key participants. The staff of DallasCowboys.com intends to preview the landscape of the draft's top prospects, with an emphasis on possible Cowboys draft picks – from the first round to the last. Today's featured player is Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun.)
- Name: Zack Baun
- Position: LB/EDGE
- College: Wisconsin
- Height/Weight: 6'2/238
- Honors:Consensus first-team All-American, consensus first-team All-Big Ten
- Key Stat: His 12.5 sacks in 2019 marked the third-highest single-season tally in Wisconsin football history.
Where He's Projected:
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder with Zack Baun – which is a familiar narrative for any "tweener" prospect.
At just 6-2, 238 pounds, Baun doesn't exactly look like an NFL pass rusher. His size and his length may limit his ability to put his hand in the dirt and play defensive end.
And yet, it's easy to see the appeal. Baun performed admirably at the NFL Combine with a 7-second three-cone, a 4.31 shuttle and a 4.62 40-yard dash. He clearly has the athleticism to bend the corner and rush the passer – as evidenced by his 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss against top-notch competition last fall.
Depending on who you ask, his athleticism is enough to see him sneak into the latter stages of the first round – or his size limitations are enough to push him back into the second round.
Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but it feels obvious that Baun has a great shot to be a top 50 draft pick.
How He Helps The Cowboys:
Baun is often listed as a linebacker, but don't let the label fool you. If the Cowboys draft him, they're doing it to help their pass rush.
That's bound to bring back some memories. It's hard to see Baun and not think about T.J. Watt – a fellow tweener from Wisconsin who the Cowboys famously passed on in 2017.
Having said that, it's important to remember the Cowboys have turned over their entire defensive coaching staff. Mike Nolan is the new defensive coordinator, and there seems to be an all-new set of guidelines in place. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Cowboys use multiple fronts in 2020, and perhaps a tweener doesn't scare them now as much as it did in 2017.
Baun has also shown ability in coverage. While his primary skillset may come as a pass rusher, it's completely plausible the Cowboys could deploy him as a strong side linebacker if need required it.
The Cowboys signed Aldon Smith to help offset the loss of Robert Quinn, and Tyrone Crawford is still on the roster. But make no mistake: they need some juice on the right side of their defensive line. Zack Baun could provide them just that.