Wisconsin linebacker and potential New England Patriots draft day target Zack Baun notified the NFL’s 32 teams on Tuesday that he had been tested positive at the scouting combine for a diluted sample, as first reported by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Baun sent a letter to the league’s organizations blaming the test result on drinking “significant amounts of water” ahead of his weigh-in during the event in late February.
Due to his versatility and athleticism, Baun entered the draft cycle as a high-upside prospect expected to come off the board either late in the first or early in the second round. Nevertheless, he does come with questions beyond the diluted sample, especially related to his build: the 23-year-old is a bit undersized to serve as an every-down edge defender at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, and may benefit from adding more mass to his frame.
That said, his raw talent cannot be denied and he still appears to have early-round momentum coming off a senior season during which he registered 12.5 sacks and earned consensus All-American honors. His diluted sample may therefore not hurt his stock too much, especially considering that suspicious tests at the combine will no longer be held against players as part of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.
Under the previous collective bargaining agreement, a positive sample would have been counted as Strike One. The new CBA that was signed into action by the NFL and the NFLPA last month, however, has lifted this stipulation — despite the fact that diluted samples due to overcompensation of water potentially could be the result of players trying to mask other substances that are still banned by the league and could be traced in a urine sample.
According to the latter Baun sent to the NFL’s teams, though, the result of the test was a surprise to the defender (via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport):
Zack was genuinely confused, upset and embarrassed by the results given the fact that the “dilute” was the result of him drinking significant amounts of water before his weigh-in (the urine test occurred immediately thereafter). Zack would welcome the opportunity to speak with any of you about this directly at your convenience...in fact, he’d be excited to do so.
As noted above, Baun is a potential target for New England in the early rounds of next week’s draft. After all, he seems like a prototypical Patriots defender and perfect fit for the team’s front seven due to his ability to wear multiple hats: he can play the hybrid move role Jamie Collins filled for New England in 2019 or serve as a stout outside linebacker and edge setter in the mold of Kyle Van Noy, two players that left the team during free agency earlier this offseason.