Despite being amongst the draft’s most underrated prospects, Zach Cunningham could be one of the first linebackers taken off the board.
Heard of Zach Cunningham? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Cunningham has been wreaking havoc on opposing offenses for the past three years or so while at Vanderbilt. In fact, the 22-year-old is coming off his best season to date, finishing with 125 total tackles, with16.5 tackles for a loss in 2016.
Oh, and he recently became the Commodores first unanimous first team All-American. No big deal.
Still, has Cunningham done enough to prove to scouts that he’s worth a first-round pick?
Let’s break it down.
Wt: 230 pounds
Hometown: Pinson, AL
Few linebackers in the draft possess the 6-foot-4, 230-pounder’s impressive size, range, and athletic ability. Playing inside linebacker at Vanderbilt allowed him to refine his instincts and clearly has an easier time fighting through blocks compared to others at the position.
He’ll likely be moved to the outside in the pros, which should be no problem for the quick, rangy Cunningham. With a real nose for the ball and great body control, it’s hard to envision the former standout Commodore lasting past the midpoint of the second round.
You reap what you sew. Okay, that’s not exactly the case for Cunningham, but his size really is a blessing and a curse. Such a large, somewhat lanky frame results in an elevated pad level, leading to missed tackles. There are moments where he’ll get caught off-balance and will badly whiff, but it’s something Cunningham should be able to overcome with time.
Although linebackers such as Alabama’s Reuben Foster and Tim Williams will get all of the attention leading up to the draft, Cunningham will still make one team incredibly happy.
He’s the best player you’ve (probably) never heard of, as his size, athleticism, and natural instincts all make him quite the appealing prospect.
A late first or early second round selection is in store for Cunningham.