Vandy’s Zach Cunningham Flashes at NFL Combine
Photo Credit To A to Z Sports

Vandy’s Zach Cunningham Flashes at NFL Combine

Zach Cunningham is the first unanimous All-American Vandy Football has seen in school history. The linebacker is on his way to adding “first round draft pick” to his list of prefixes.

A 6-foot-3, 234 pounds he showed explosiveness as a top performer in the vertical jump (35 inches) and the broad jump (10-feet, 5 inches). Top NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said Cunningham’s 4.67 40-time is “good” for his height and weight combination. He finished in the top seven in all three events, among linebackers.

CBS Sports’ Rob Rang compared the Vandy star to a long time veteran in the NFL: The Kansas City Chief’s Derrick Johnson.

“It is hard not to remember a young Johnson at Texas when watching Cunningham, who possesses a similar rangy frame, speed and nose for the ball,” Rang said. “Like the Chiefs’ 12-year veteran, Cunningham possesses Pro Bowl potential with the skill-set to translate into the 4-3 or 3-4 alignment.”

“Cunningham looks more like an outside linebacker for a 4-3 alignment than a traditional inside linebacker for a 3-4 scheme. He isn’t always the cleanest tackler but as his statistics suggest, he certainly gets the job done. The time spent inside has honed Cunningham’s instincts and ability to fight through blocks, though he remains at his best on the chase.”

Cunningham takes advantage of unexpected opportunity

Cunningham took advantage of top linebacker prospect Rueben Foster’s absence from the Combine. The Alabama All-American was sent home from Indianapolis Friday night after an altercation with a hospital worker. This left Cunningham as arguably the top linebacker participating in interviews and drills.

With Foster’s combine issue and recent rotator cuff surgery, this could tighten the gap between the two prospects. Foster has been considered a top 10 pick for months. Cunningham has been mocked as high as a pick the late teens. Foster has given NFL scouts red flags while all Cunningham has done is handle his business.

One weakness stands out

The main negative on Cunningham is his lack of strength and bulk. That was proven to be a fact at the NFL Combine when he only put up 15 reps on the bench press (225 pounds). That was second least of the entire linebacker group.

Lance Zierlein of points out how this has affected Cunningham’s play.

“Lack of power in his lower body creates issues with contact balance for him,” wrote Zierlein. “Plays behind his shoulder rather than behind his hands in take-on situations. Can get entangled against size and slow to disengage. Doesn’t have play strength to fight past angle blocks once they land.”

“Cunningham’s missed tackles and lack of desired play strength could bother teams, but his consistent production is hard to ignore. Cunningham is a rangy, three-down linebacker who has a nose for the ball and special teams value.”

Overall, the NFL Combine was a positive day for the Vanderbilt product.


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