Zach Cunningham   LB   Vanderbilt 

TALENT
ROUND
3

STRENGTHS
Zach has been one of the top tacklers in college football in the SEC. He has solid cover skills and with his long arms and legs and the overall length you would think would allow him to have plenty of sacks to go along with all of those tackles. He shows excellent natural strength and techniques to take on blocks, shed them and make tackles. Zach shows just enough speed and football intelligence taking good angles to make tackles on sweeps and screens. Zach is a smooth gliding athlete who looks like he is never using all of his speed and talent on the field and yet he seems to always be around the ball.

CONCERNS
Itís very hard to tell how fast Zach is on film. Nevertheless he always seems to be fast enough to be around the ball. Iíve seen him on film in single coverage and he seems to cover with ease in spite of the fact he doesnít look like heís breaking a sweat. Heís a drag down tackler and at the next level he must become more of a meet and great form tackler to make impact plays. Drag down tackles do not seem to get turn overís and cause fumbles and the stats for Zach seem to verify just that. According to ESPN stats Zach has 71 solos tackles, 51 Assistant Tackles, no sacks and 2 fumbles and no interceptions. Those stats suggest that Zach is not a player who makes plays and believe me thatís what I noticed on film.

BOTTOM LINE
Zach has been playing inside linebacker in a 4/3 defense and the truth isÖthatís not his best position to impact at the next level. Heís a drag down tackler with good length and with his natural strength to meet blocks and shed them I believe Zach fits well as and OLB/DE in a 3/4 defense. Zach is thinking way too much and not just reacting. Itís obvious through his 51 assistant tackles that Zach is late often to the play. Changing positions makes sense to me because Zach has the talent to become more of an impact player if he plays a position that limits his field of vision and responsibilities. He will have to learn to play with more speed and a sense of urgency but I think that will happen with good coaching. I like Zachís talent but heís ďlength till impactĒ (LTI) might go beyond his first contract because he has to learn pass rushing moves, to play with more passion and urgency and better form tackling but the talent is there, it just needs to be unleashed. I can see teams being confused about what position Zach should play at the next level. Some will think heís an inside linebacker and some will agree with me and think OLB/DE in a 3/4 defense. This will affect what round Zach most likely could be selected in. It also could mean that Zach will get lost in the shuffle of indecisiveness and be selected later than most people think he should be. As far as Iím concerned there is nothing better than selecting a player who has a chip on his shoulder because someone suggested he would be a high draft choice and it winds up not happening that way. Zach has the talent to impact at the next level but he will need time and good coaching to accomplish this.

Drew Boylhart  FEB.2017