With social distancing protocols in place all over the world NFL teams are having to adjust ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. Platforms like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime have revolutionized the way that we as a society communicate and we are seeing workspaces lean on them as we all continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dallas Cowboys are obviously a workplace and are resorting to virtual meetings with prospects ahead of the draft. Over the weekend they shared a clip of their staff interviewing Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts and on Tuesday morning (also the name of a home goods store!) they released another one.
The Dallas Cowboys have interviewed Wisconsin LB/EDGE Zack Baun
Baun is an interesting player in that he fits as a tweener between being a stand up, off the ball linebacker, and a situational pass rusher from the edge. If he weighed 10-15 pounds more he would almost certainly be thought of as an edge rusher as getting after the quarterback is what is catching the scout’s eyes.
The Cowboys shared a bit of their interview with Wisconsin LB Zack Baun.
The #DallasCowboys continued their virtual #NFLDraft prep interviewing Wisconsin LB Zack Baun.— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) April 7, 2020
Stay tuned for more interviews to come. #StayHomeStayStrong pic.twitter.com/J0c4JdHgFy
Obviously the Cowboys aren’t going to share an enormous amount of an interview that could be an indication of who they will draft in a few weeks, but the fact that they have interest in Baun is, well, interesting.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy can be heard asking him about generalities, he wanted to know about Baun’s love for the game of football.
Mike McCarthy: This is your interview to be a Dallas Cowboy... What do you want us to walk away from this interview with as the most important thing you want us to know about you? ...You talk to us about your love of the game.
Zack Baun: Yea I think that’s one of my best attributes and my best assets. And it’s crazy because you just can’t, it’s not even taught. And it comes from the heart and that shows my love for the game in itself.
Of course McCarthy isn’t the only voice that matters when it comes to player selection. The scouting department will play a huge role, but so will coordinators and position coaches.
The Cowboys have a new defensive coordinator in Mike Nolan and he is also seen asking Zack a question.
Mike Nolan: If someone were to give you a compliment as a football player, not as a person, but just as a football player, what would that compliment say?
Zack Baun: Your motor is unlike any other.
Mike Nolan: Good answer.
How the Cowboys would utilize Baun would be a key to taking him in the draft. John Owning recently did a mock which had the Cowboys taking Baun at #17 and he explained why he didn’t feel that was a reach. He calls Baun the second best pass rusher in this class behind Chase Young.
Zack Baun, imo, is unquestionably a better pass rusher than Chaisson right now, in the present, today.— johnowning (@JohnOwning) March 22, 2020
As for utilizing Baun in the Cowboys defensive scheme, we have to remember that Mike Nolan is going to use a lot more varied looks than the Cowboys have previously. There will be 4-3 and 3-4 looks, with players moving around more than they did under the old regime. Here’s Owning again.
Baun could step into a SAM linebacker role (strong side) when the Cowboys are in a base 4-3 defense and reduce down to defensive end on third downs. These roles would allow Dallas to take advantage of the full totality of his skill set.
Baun would also be an outstanding movable JACK linebacker if the team opts to run any three-man fronts. If the team ever transitions to a 3-4, he would be a perfect fit as the weak-side outside linebacker. The only limit to Baun’s usage would be defensive coordinator Mike Nolan’s creativity.
There is even some comparison to the “one they should have drafted” in T.J. Watt.
Baun’s player comparisons include two familiar faces to Wisconsin natives — former Badger T.J. Watt and former Green Bay Packer Clay Matthews. In college, Baun has excelled as a blitzer, consistently putting quarterbacks under pressure. Like Baun, Watt and Matthews had success as blitzers in college and translated those talents into their NFL careers, as each has won at least one All-Pro selection.
It’s possible Baun could spend time as a linebacker and as an edge rusher. The Cowboys already have a couple of promising off the ball linebackers in Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Baun would add another dimension in Mike Nolan’s scheme.
For what it’s worth, NFL agent Ron Slavin joined the BTB podcast feed last week and specifically talked about how much Mike Nolan valued Leighton Vander Esch while he was with the New Orleans Saints. That seems important given that the Cowboys are interviewing Baun.
Of course, the Cowboys showing that they’re interviewing Baun could be a bit of a smokescreen. Many people thought that about the Jalen Hurts interview they posted previously, that they are publicizing certain videos to deceive from their real draft plans.
What do you think?