The New England Patriots will almost certainly have a void to fill at linebacker during the offseason. Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins Sr. are unrestricted free agents. It’s probable one or both could leave for greener pastures. If the Patriots target someone capable of filling at least one of those roles in the draft, the team could potentially upgrade, or protect itself from losing ground.
That’s where Wisconsin’s Zack Baun could fit. On the collegiate level, the redshirt senior has proven he can produce in a variety of ways. He’s been an effective pass rusher, which is what he played in 2019 as an edge defender. In his final year in Madison, Baun recorded 12.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss.
As a junior, he showed the athletic ability to cover the run and pass inside. Pro Football Focus recorded 195 coverage snaps and graded him at a 91.1 in these situations. There are some who view his size as a potential drawback, especially for playing on the edge. He measured 6’2″ 238 pounds at the NFL Combine and recorded a good, but less-than overwhelming 4.65 40-yard-dash time.
Still, Baun’s versatility and proven production have him looking like the type of player Bill Belichick and company would love to have as a weapon he can play in a variety of scenarios. That’s partially why PFF has tabbed Baun as the Pats’ perfect pick.
In fact, Belichick has had success playing guys like Collins in hybrid roles, so drafting a player with a similar skill set and size (Collins is 6’3″ 255) would be logical. There is a real chance Baun could slip to the second round because not all draft prognosticators have him pegged as a first-round talent. Bucky Brooks has the only mock draft on NFL.com that has Baun in the first round, and he does have him landing with the Patriots in his latest post.
Had he run a tad bit faster 40 time, that might not be the case. The Pats have the 23rd overall pick, which some believe the team should be inclined to use to draft Tom Brady’s eventual or immediate successor.
Baun might be a reach at No. 23, and the Patriots don’t have a second-round selection. However, thanks to Tuesday’s awarding of compensatory picks, the team has 12 total selections in the draft. Specifically, the Patriots were given two compensatory third-round selections. The team could use one of its third-round picks and another of its later selections to move up to the second round if it truly covets Baun.
The NFL Draft begins on Thursday April 23 and ends on Saturday, April 25.