Now that the reality is sinking in that Joe Schobert won’t be back in Cleveland, it’s time to find his replacement in the Browns’ linebacking corps. One place GM Andrew Berry and the Browns could turn is the man who spent the last few seasons playing the same position Schobert did during his college days at Wisconsin, Zack Baun.
Baun is frequently compared to Schobert, and he embraces the similarities. They even had the same amount of tackles for loss (19.5) in their respective senior years at Wisconsin playing the attacking OLB role in the Badgers defense. Like Schobert, Baun transitioned to more of an off-ball LB role at the Senior Bowl and that figures to be his NFL position.
The former HS option quarterback mentioned in his combine interview that he’s talked to Schobert for advice and guidance as he follows the similar path to the NFL draft.
“Yeah, (Schobert) said the best thing for him was just diving into his playbook and learning it as much as you can from the older guys,” Baun said. “We from Wisconsin are smart enough and intelligent enough to make any transition it may be, and I think that’s why guys get a leg up being from Wisconsin because we run such an intricate scheme and just having that advantage going into the next level, whether you’re playing the same position you are or making a transition it’s pretty flawless.”
Baun also noted he borrowed elements of his game from another ex-Badger, T.J. Watt, who has remained in the pass-rush EDGE role they all played in Madison. Baun is more physically like Schobert, however; they’re within a half-inch and six pounds, although Baun timed faster at the combine in both the 40-yard dash (4.65 seconds) and 3-cone (7.0 seconds) drills than Schobert did in 2016.
Most projections have Baun coming off the board in the second or third rounds. Given his quick learning curve to playing defense and his impressive athleticism for the position, it’s worthwhile for Berry and head coach Kevin Stefanski to strongly consider him to fill the hole vacated by his eerily similar predecessor.