It’s that time of year again where the NFL Draft takes over the offseason. The Rams once again are without a first round pick and won’t be called until pick 52 in the second round. One position of interest should be at EDGE, especially since the Rams could lose Dante Fowler. Even if the Rams manage to bring back Fowler, Clay Matthews isn’t getting any younger. The Rams will have to find a replacement eventually, preferably soon so that Matthews can share his knowledge of the game.
Zack Baun could be a potential answer to the Rams’ dilemma at the EDGE position. But what does Baun bring to the table?
College Stats and Honors:
2019: 75 tackles, 12.5 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and two pass deflections.
Career: 152 tackles, 15 sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and four pass deflections.
Honors: First Team All-Big 10 (2019) and Midseason All-American (2019) by Associated Press.
In terms of height, Baun is a good size at 6’3″ and is athletic and explosive right off the snap. He tends to use this burst to his advantage to get the edge on offensive linemen. He’s surprisingly strong, he can be seen overwhelming blockers at times on film. Baun’s hands are skillfully placed to also gain the advantage of linemen. He’s also a sound tackler, known for making great open-field tackles. His pass rushing skills are top-notch on the collegiate level.
While speed did help Baun in pass rushing, it’s an asset whenever he drops back in coverage. He had no issues staying with tight ends or running backs, which has been an issue with the Rams at times last season. His covering skills are refreshing and can be dangerous if underestimated. Baun has no issues in terms of chasing down ball-carriers and has the motor to pursue if needed. Overall, Baun’s athleticism will be enticing for any defensive coordinator.
While Baun has the height to play EDGE in the NFL, he doesn’t have the desired physique at 235 pounds. There’s no denying that Baun was dominant on the collegiate level, but the NFL is on an entirely elite level of offensive linemen. It’s hard to picture a guy like Baun to compete in the NFL at that body type. This could lead to Baun being used more situationally instead of a full-time EDGE rusher. His athleticism can only do so much on the next level, part of the issues he seen in college ball is over-pursuing. Many players entering the NFL do have the athleticism to rush the edges, but the key is finding the necessary balance and technique to be the desired playmaker. Baun is also not as skilled with bull-rushes, which makes it likely that teams may have to move him in the inside. That wouldn’t be a huge issue if he actually had meaningful experience at the position.
Expected Draft Round:
Considering Baun’s athleticism, I fully expect him to shoot up draft boards. It’s easy to be impressed with NFL Combine warriors, and it’s to be expected that Baun will turn heads. Currently, he’s been associated with going in the second round. I believe that’s a good spot for him, but I think once his measurables are recorded, it wouldn’t be a shock if he goes late in the first round-early second round.
Now, should the Rams pursue Baun? Considering Baun actually drops to pick 52, I would still say no. This doesn’t discredit Baun’s ability or suggest that Baun wouldn’t excel in the NFL. It’s more about the fit. Now, if the Rams didn’t have so many holes, particularly at linebacker, I would be okay with the Rams drafting him and coaching him to play inside linebacker. It is a position of need currently, unless the Rams are able to bring back Cory Littleton. Otherwise, Baun wouldn’t be the answer the Rams need at EDGE. The Rams also can’t afford to draft a situational pass rusher this high too. Baun has potential, but he is a much better fit on other teams.