Zach Cunningham - Texans 2nd round pick

Discussion in 'Houston Texans' started by Dash, Apr 28, 2017.

  1. Nimo

    Nimo Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2012
    Messages:
    6,854
    Likes Received:
    614
    https://www.profootballfocus.com/co...-is-the-best-linebacker-youve-never-heard-of/

    VANDERBILT’S ZACH CUNNINGHAM IS THE BEST LB YOU HAVEN’T HEARD OF

    Good players from Vanderbilt can often get lost in the mix of strong front-7 options in the SEC, but linebacker Zach Cunningham deserves national attention. The former four-star recruit has gained about 30 pounds since entering college while maintaining the athleticism that made him an attractive high school player. Still, Cunningham didn’t receive the big-time offers he probably deserved. Now at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, his size and athleticism compare favorably to the best SEC linebackers, and his on-field performance matches up just as well.

    After playing 423 snaps as a redshirt freshman in 2014, Cunningham broke out in 2015 with a +21.9 overall grade that ranked 16th among the nation’s linebackers and third in the SEC. He graded positively in all three phases – against the run, in coverage, and as a pass rusher – with his work in the run game ranking second among SEC linebackers and his run stop percentage of 13.4 percent ranking sixth among the nation’s inside linebackers.

    The first thing that stands out when watching Cunningham is his speed and physicality. When left unblocked, he flies to the ball and his strong closing speed puts him in position on a number of plays. Cunningham attacks blockers with vigor, aggressively using his hands to take on and defeat blocks in the run game. The athleticism shows up in coverage as well, as Cunningham has the range to make plays in zone coverage as well as the movement skills to match up with opposing tight ends and running backs. He uses his length to make plays on the ball in coverage, and that’s a part of his game that will make him an excellent NFL prospect as his understanding of the game continues to progress.

    Cunningham shows his range and length in coverage:

    [​IMG]

    Cunningham beats the block and makes the play in the run game:

    [​IMG]

    If there’s one place in which Cunningham must to improve, it’s his ability to finish plays and tackle. He’ll often attack ball carriers too high, leading to his falling off too many tackles or whiffing completely. Even when he does complete the tackle, he doesn’t finish with quite the same power that he shows when looking to take on blocks.

    Cunningham whiffs on the easy tackle:

    [​IMG]

    Cunningham missed one of every 9.7 tackle attempts — 44th-best among inside linebackers — which is actually better than former Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith fared as a sophomore in 2014 when he missed one out of every 6.6 attempts. Smith improved his tackling as a junior before going down to injury and getting drafted in the second round by the Dallas Cowboys, and if Cunningham can make similar strides, he’ll put himself in great position to become an All-American and potentially a top-round draft choice.

    With a strong showing as a redshirt sophomore, Cunningham has already attracted the NFL’s attention, it’s now time to take the next step in his game. He’s flashed range and play-making ability in coverage, and improving his play recognition will put him in position to make even more plays. Cunningham is a willing run defender, capable of taking on and defeating blocks, but he must improve his tackling and ability to finish plays. If he can continue to progress, Cunningham heads into the 2016 season as a potential All-American candidate and NFL scouts will be keeping a close eye on his development whether he comes out this year or in 2017.

     
  2. Nimo

    Nimo Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2012
    Messages:
    6,854
    Likes Received:
    614
    Andre Hal is winning. Not only is Zach from his alma mater but the Texans didn't draft his replacement at this spot.
     
  3. zeeshan2

    zeeshan2 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2013
    Messages:
    20,829
    Likes Received:
    5,407
  4. zeeshan2

    zeeshan2 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2013
    Messages:
    20,829
    Likes Received:
    5,407
  5. v3.0

    v3.0 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2005
    Messages:
    16,027
    Likes Received:
    769
    Texans ran a 4-3 defense when Cushing was drafted and he was the Sam OLB while DeMeco Ryans was the Mike. When Wade Phillips took over as defensive coordinator he installed his 3-4 defense, moved Cushing inside and Texans released DeMeco. One reason I heard Wade moved Cushing inside was that Cushing wasn't fast enough to be an edge rusher which Wade wanted in his OLBs.
     
  6. Phillyrocket

    Phillyrocket Member

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2002
    Messages:
    8,305
    Likes Received:
    923
    Brett makes a compelling argument as he often does. Poor tackling based on not great top end speed and missing guys on the edge. In the box shedding blocks he excels needs guys like Clowney and Mercilus to set the edge to allow him to shine.

    Looks like a great Cushing heir apparent.
     
    I am a Donut likes this.
  7. EddieWasSnubbed

    EddieWasSnubbed Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2002
    Messages:
    14,978
    Likes Received:
    1,254
    He'll replace Simon from day one and I imagine he slides inside on third down to relieve Cushing. Great pick. Love it.


    Give me Moreau or Davenport in the third.
     
  8. Wattafan

    Wattafan Member

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2014
    Messages:
    520
    Likes Received:
    25
    He was ranked 25th by cbssports.com recently so we got a steal right there.
     
  9. zeeshan2

    zeeshan2 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2013
    Messages:
    20,829
    Likes Received:
    5,407
  10. SC1211

    SC1211 Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 17, 2009
    Messages:
    2,818
    Likes Received:
    399
    I think McKinney slides over to Cushing's spot (they are nearly identical); Cunningham is a GREAT cover ILB and different than anyone that we have right now. Will be awesome to have some variance and it covers one of our biggest weaknesses. Still looking for a RT, but a stellar pick in my opinion.
     
    Yaosthirdleg and EddieWasSnubbed like this.
  11. zeeshan2

    zeeshan2 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2013
    Messages:
    20,829
    Likes Received:
    5,407
  12. Cstyle42

    Cstyle42 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2008
    Messages:
    9,390
    Likes Received:
    777
    Skip Bayless falling in love with the Texans pick by pick
     
    RasaqBoi and texans1095 like this.
  13. zeeshan2

    zeeshan2 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2013
    Messages:
    20,829
    Likes Received:
    5,407
  14. Shark44

    Shark44 Member

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 1999
    Messages:
    966
    Likes Received:
    135
    Frank Coyle's Draft Insiders had him ranked just below Reuben Foster as a 1st round pick and both had a 90 rating...

    2. * Zach Cunningham #41 - 6-3, 235, Vanderbilt - Sp. 4.65 Rating 90
    Tall rangy versatile junior has performed at a high level since his redshirt freshman season, playing a wide variety of roles for the Vandy defense. High cut angular frame with thin lower body, long arms and the movement skills of a 200 lb. athlete. Lined up at a few backer positions in their flexible 3-4 scheme where he excelled in both run and pass defense. He has the athleticism and fluidity to match up with backs and tight ends at the next level. Very productive big play defender since starting his final five games in 2014. He shows fine balance, fluidity and changes directions smoothly with top burst to close on the ball and finish. Totaled almost 300 career tackles vs SEC talent on a sub .500 team. Very quick to read the play, shows good awareness in coverage and is a very reliable tackler. Reads and reacts quickly, is adept at avoiding blockers and makes plays all over the field. When blockers reach the 2nd level he is surprisingly adept at disengaging, though his lack of bulk can cause problems inside the box. Extremely effective as an open field tackler, showing good form to securely and consistently wrap up with both arms. While he arrives at the ball quickly, he can be a violent tackler. In the tackle box, he can struggle when engaged with big interior linemen. He can struggle to anchor if he does not gain a quick advantage and beat blockers to the gap. Can get engulfed by blockers at the line and will take risky angles to avoid them. At times, he can raise his pads and tackle high and give ground to make a stop. He's an effective blitzer due to his speed, agility and vision, though not used in that capacity regularly. Built more like a safety than a linebacker, though one of the most versatile and diverse defenders I have ever scouted. Truly can play any position in the 4-3 and most in the 3-4 scheme. With his rare length, footspeed, toughness and agility, capable of being a rookie three down defender including all the packages. His ability to find the ball and run with the flexibility to open his hips projects him as a unique matchup with tight ends. Though his limited experience in deeper coverage warrants reps and a learning curve. He mainly played near the line to be as close to the ball as possible. As the leader of this undermanned unit, he attempted to do too much at times which caused mistakes. Being overaggressive pursuing to the outside, he took some bad angles where he ran himself out of the play rather than flowing to the ball. Nevertheless, this is a terrific defender with impact talent to give any defense a strong boost as a rookie. Quick-
    Key Factors
    Athletic Ability 8
    Speed 7
    Quickness 8
    Strength 8
    Run Defense 8
    Pass Rushing 7
    Pass Coverage 7
    Intangibles 8
    Instincts 8
    Recognition 8
    Hindu Theory
    Alec Ogletree
    www.draftinsiders.com
    Draft Insiders’ Digest / 3
    twitch athlete with excellent range and the versatility to be a nice chess piece for a creative defensive coordinator. Possesses a narrow waist and hips with the frame to add 10 lbs. of muscle especially to his lower unit without a significant loss of quickness. As a junior, he started 13 games and finished with 125 tackles with 16.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 BK, 2 FF, 4 FR, and no picks or sacks. Earned 1st team All-American and SEC honors. Against Georgia, he had a remarkable 19-tackle effort in Vanderbilt’s 17-16 win. It included a game changing stop with a 4th-and-1 tackle late in the contest. As a sophomore, he started 9 of 12 games and made 103 tackles with 16.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 3 PBU, 4 FF, 3 FR and no picks. Earned 1st team SEC honors. At the NFL Combine, he came in at over 6’3”, 234 lbs. with 34 3/8” arms. He ran a solid 4.67 time and did 15 reps. Added a 35” VL and a 10’5” BJ. Looked sharp in the positional drills and had good times of a 7.03 three cone and a 4.29 in the short shuttle and impressed in his drops in coverage. He displays many of the same skills as young NFL defender Alec Olgetree with the versatility to play a few spots in either scheme and intriguing matchup potential over the tight end. Hard working smart defender with excellent production and experience at a high level of play. Top backer with a rookie starting grade and well-rounded skills to be an every down defender. Impact ability in the right setting. Top 25 prospect with a nice LOD.
    Draft Projection: 1st Round
     
    Chamillionaire and Yaosthirdleg like this.
  15. RasaqBoi

    RasaqBoi Member

    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2007
    Messages:
    6,191
    Likes Received:
    1,723
    This is crazy lol.
     
  16. Jturbofuel

    Jturbofuel Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2002
    Messages:
    2,297
    Likes Received:
    225
    Now I am afraid everyone will be a bust.
     
  17. zeeshan2

    zeeshan2 Member

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2013
    Messages:
    20,829
    Likes Received:
    5,407
  18. FLASH21

    FLASH21 Member

    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2008
    Messages:
    9,474
    Likes Received:
    654
    Love the pick, we needed a guy like this to compliment McKinney.

    He's going to be a stud as soon as he learns to tackle with leverage.
     
  19. askball

    askball Member

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2002
    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    6
    He reminds me of Daryl Washington coming out of TCU. Very fast, rangy LB...definitely needed in today's NFL.
     
    FLASH21 likes this.
  20. EddieWasSnubbed

    EddieWasSnubbed Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2002
    Messages:
    14,978
    Likes Received:
    1,254
    I like a comp of Cunningham to Ryan Shazier, a player in Pittsburgh that I am envious of.
     
Loading...

Share This Page