Zach Cunningham 2017 NFL Draft Profile

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ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 17: Dedrick Mills #26 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets eludes the tackle attempt by Zach Cunningham #41 of the Vanderbilt Commodores to score a touchdown at Bobby Dodd Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)

Overview
Position: Linebacker
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 234 pounds
School: Vanderbilt Commodores

Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash
: 4.67 seconds
Bench press: 15 reps
Vertical jump: 35 inches (tied for fifth among linebackers)
Broad jump: 10 feet, 5 inches (fifth among linebackers)
Three-cone drill: 7.03 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.29 seconds

Zach Cunningham 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Zach Cunningham was the SEC’s best kept secret last fall. On the field, hurdling offensive linemen and making game-saving tackles are Cunningham’s super powers. Meanwhile off the field, Cunningham plays guitar and sings. Yes, he plays guitar and sings.

Cunningham is entering the draft after his red-shirt junior season. He statistically blew his SEC counterparts out of the water. Cunningham finished the season ranked in the top ten nationally with 125 total tackles, leading the SEC. He was ranked second among SEC defenders with his 71 solo tackles. Last but not certainly not least, he tied for third in the SEC with 16.5 tackles for loss.

As a redshirt freshman, Cunningham had 67 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. In 2015, he started the final nine games. Cunningham led the team with 69 solo tackles, 103 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss as well as four forced fumbles. The 2016 season was his best thus far as Cunningham led Vandy with 68 solo tackles, 125 total tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss. He was named to the all-SEC first team for the second year in a row. The nation took notice of Cunningham’s relentless tenacity on the field as he was nominated for both the Butkus and Bednarik Awards. He finished second (he should have won) in voting for the Butkus, despite blowing the competition away statistically. Cunningham also became the first Vanderbilt player in team history to earn unanimous First Team All-America recognition.

Strengths

  • Athleticism
  • Reaction Time
  • Physical and aggressive
  • Versatile
  • Length
  • Strong on the run sideline to sideline

Weaknesses

  • Slow off the block
  • Struggles to stand his ground
  • Tackles high causing him to slide off or miss tackles

NFL Comparison: size wise Alec Ogletree; skill wise Nigel Bradham

Teams with a Need at Position: Oakland Raiders, New York Giants, Los Angeles Rams, Indianapolis Colts, Pittsburgh Steelers

Projection: Late first round to early second round

Bottom Line

Zach Cunningham has a lean frame, so he could add weight and it would not affect his speed. His tackling technique is a concern, as he tackles high and tends to miss easy tackles. Cunningham has explosive speed that gives him the ability to play sideline to sideline and get to the ball. If he can get into space he can get to the ball. His game intelligence will help him adapt to the NFL, thus making his playing potential is limitless.

Cunningham’s length will make him an attractive pick, as well as his awareness on the field. He’s a versatile and athletic player. He’s also aggressive and is not afraid to attack. Cunningham has the ability to be a game changer, as we saw him leap the line to block a kick at the end of the Auburn game. He is not a perfect player but he has the potential to make an immediate impact on any team willing to draft him.

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