Zach Cunningham, LB
School: Vanderbilt | Conference: SEC
College Experience: Junior | Age: 22
Height / Weight: 6-4 / 230 lbs
Projected Draft Status: Late 1st or early 2nd
NFL Comparison: Daryl Washington
Zach Cunningham is a tackling machine. Due to his relentless style of play and aggressiveness, the junior linebacker made a lot of plays for Vanderbilt over the past few years. The two obvious things about Cunningham that stand out are his size and athleticism. At 6-4 he would be one of the taller inside linebackers in the NFL. He has great length which is normally coveted in outside linebackers but works well in tandem with his outstanding athleticism with him patrolling the middle. Cunnigham is a sideline to sideline type of player but aside from his range what I came away most impressed with was his read and react ability and vision. He can consistently diagnose where the play is going and get himself into position to make a stop.
- Aggressive playmaker who is looking for someone to hit and can fight through blocks.
- Outstanding vision, anticipation, and react ability and overall good ability to read the field. If a sliver of space presents a path to the backfield Cunnigham is going to get there quick fast and in a hurry.
- A+ tackle production that includes and an impressive number of tackles for loss especially for a middle linebacker.
- Really good athlete for the position that is surprisingly fluid and fast for someone as tall as he is. Those skills translate well for him when dropping back in coverage.
- Has the ability to create turnovers with 6 forced fumbles in his career and also has good awareness to recover a loose ball with 7 recoveries in his career.
- His tallness can sometimes be a detriment especially against smaller and shiftier running backs where he is more prone to whiff on a tackle.
- Despite his tackle production Cunnigham whiffed on a lot of tackles. I think this related to his need, in general, to play with a better pad level and take better angles.
According to PFF: Cunningham missed one of every 9.7 tackle attempts — 44th-best among inside linebackers - PFF
- Quite possible he skips leg day. Has unconventional build in general but his lower body really stands out for not being as developed as his upper half.
- Needs to become more aware and active with his hands when trying to fight off blockers or get through a scrum.
Let’s see his work:
LB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt, 6'3, 230lbs). Can shed/get around blocks as well as any LB. First play is 4th & 1 with game on the line. pic.twitter.com/kBRLlmdJBX— My Colts Account (@MyColtsAccount) February 1, 2017
LB Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt, 6'3, 230lbs). Missed tackles are HUGE concern (this is 4 games' worth). If you can fix it, draft him in 1st. pic.twitter.com/ytzI2bpSi4— My Colts Account (@MyColtsAccount) February 1, 2017
Zach Cunningham is another fun LB that looks good in space, but can play the run and handle blockers. Add him to the wish list.— Joe Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) February 9, 2017
How He Would Fit On The Redskins
The Redskins need all the help they can get at the inside linebacker position. The Redskins haven't had a true playmaker at the position in decades and the middle of the defense has struggled for years. Adding a linebacker like Cunningham would not only improve the presence in the middle but add much-needed athleticism, vision, aggression, and big play ability to the position. The scary cool thing about Cunnigham is his upside. Despite being a man among boys in the Vandy defense there is still so much more he can improve upon at the next level. My one reservation with him as far as fit on the Skins would be out defensive scheme and philosophy. For whatever reason, defensive coordinators in the past have not used inside linebackers in the Redskins 3-4 scheme or in sub packages as aggressive and attacking pieces – the best part of Cunningham’s game. If the team drafts a kid as physically gifted as he is I hope they use him the right way.