Dallas Cowboys Draft: 5 Best Linebackers in each round

Jaylon Smith #54 and Leighton Vander Esch #55 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Jaylon Smith #54 and Leighton Vander Esch #55 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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Zack Baun, Linebacker (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Zach Baun, Wisconsin

Round Grade: Early 2nd

Value: Slight Reach

Percent Available: 100%

Disclaimer: The Cowboys are showing a lot of interest in Oklahoma Linebacker Kenneth Murray. Murray was also available on 100% of the trials, but as previously stated, I selected the best available player and that is Zack Baun.

Oh look, a Wisconsin pass rusher that plays without his hands in the ground. It’s happening again! Baun is a really good player who projects as an off-ball linebacker at the professional level, but with his pass-rushing ability, he could be a fun “gadget” player for a defense.

The Cowboys have interviewed the Badger, much like they did with another badger roughly three years ago, however, the role Baun would play on this team is a bit unclear. The Cowboys are looking to stay with a 4-3 base defense, however, compared to previous years they do plan on having multiple fronts. Watt had the size and athleticism to play on the edge; Baun isn’t quite that.

At 6-foot-2, 238 pounds Baun showcased his agility running a 7 second 3-cone drill, but also confirmed some explosiveness questions as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds, vertically jumped 32.5 inches, and broad jumped 115 inches. The numbers aren’t great, but when an athlete shows good instincts and technique on tape, it becomes easier to overlook some athletic limitations.

As a pass rusher,  offensive tackles and guards struggle to match him step for step. His pass-rushing arsenal is also fairly diverse. While he doesn’t possess a lot of power, the way he uses his agility and bend to get around offensive linemen will always generate pressure. He’s savvy with his feet and his motor is relentless. (He had 12.5 sacks this year)

As a run stopper, he is patient. His feet are always active and he squares his hips in the direction of the ball carriers. He doesn’t get beat often because he’s taking good tackling angles. While Baun is a smart player, he didn’t read and react to options and zone reads often so he will need to work on sealing the edge.

In coverage, however, are the biggest questions regarding Baun. Used primarily as a pass rusher, the Badger did not see many reps in man or zone coverage. However, that didn’t stop him from making plays. He recorded 2 interceptions and 4 deflected passes in his collegiate career. He moves well and is aware of how to pass off assignments in zone. Rub routes and crossing patterns did not confuse him in the little tape that existed.

Baun will be a good player for any team that drafts. Because he doesn’t have the build of traditional edge rushers, he might struggle to pass rush early on in his career, but if his collegiate career is any indication, he will learn. His coverage instincts will be tested but that is largely expected at this point.