Could the Falcons steal Zack Baun on day two?

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Zack Baun has been one of my favorite prospects to examine during the NFL Draft process. He is a swiss army knife that a coach like Dan Quinn is likely salivating over. For a while now, he has been viewed as a fringe first-round prospect. Now, it seems like there is a chance he could fall with the NFL Draft just a little over a week away:

Maybe Baun just drank too much water. That is no crime. Heck, Tom Brady drinks his weight in water every day. At the same time, he could have been trying to mask a performance-enhancing drug. I am not here to make accusations, but in a time where teams can’t meet with prospects unless it is over a video camera, there has never been more uncertainty over a draft class. Organizations may opt to go with the safest picks on their boards, and it’s difficult to blame them. However, all it takes is for one team to fall in love with Baun, and this diluted sample may not matter.

So what is the deal with this kid?

Baun was a three-star prospect in his home state of Wisconsin and decided to play for the Badgers. He redshirted as a freshman, served as a rotational player the next year, and then missed his sophomore season due to a left foot injury. Baun had another foot flare-up before his junior season but was able to establish himself as a starter. It took him a while, but as a senior, he emerged as a superstar at the college level.

Baun, a team captain, ended up with 75 total tackles on the season, including 19.5 for a loss and 12.5 sacks. His performance did not go unnoticed; he was named a Butkus Award finalist, Bednarik Award semifinalist, consensus first-team All-American by FWAA and Walter Camp, second-team All-American by AFCA, AP, and Sporting News, and consensus first-team All-Big Ten. Baun was the first consensus first-team All-American linebacker in Wisconsin history.

The 6’3″, 235-pounder’s best asset is his versatility. Many believe that he was in the wrong scheme for his skillset at Wisconsin and is best suited as an outside linebacker in a 4-3 because of how well he plays off the ball. But while Baun is a little thin for a pass rusher, he is super quick and can lineup across the defensive front. NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein compared Baun to free agent Clay Matthews due to his versatility. Not only was he a terrific pass rusher last season, but he was also solid in coverage and the run game. Pro Football Focus gave him a 91.0 pass-rushing grade, an 86.9 coverage grade, and a 77.3 run defense grade.

I have no crystal ball here. Perhaps this does not affect his value whatsoever. Or maybe he was set to go as a late first-rounder, and now he will be available at 47 for Atlanta. Perhaps he was already going to fall to that range. Regardless, Baun is a player who may now be had at a discount and should be on the radar for Atlanta as they search for young pass-rushing help.

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