NFL Draft Scouting Report: Zach Cunningham

Linebacker #41
Junior, 6’4” 245

  • Reads and Reacts quickly
  • Solid tackler
  • Plays sideline to sideline
  • High Motor

Cunningham notched 119 tackles last season and 16.5 tackles for loss. Cunningham’s tackles led the SEC, a feat that no Vanderbilt player has achieved in over a decade. Zach Cunningham is a solid hitter evidenced by two forced fumbles, and he also notched four fumble recoveries.

Run Defense

In run defense Cunningham excels at reading plays and reacting. Multiple times on film I see him shooting gaps and making big plays. Cunningham has the speed to shoot under blocks instead of fighting over them, but against faster running backs he can be outrun around the edge.

Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt LB) vs Georgia 2016

Cunningham is a sideline to sideline player with the range to make any tackles. When offensive linemen get their hands on Cunningham he can struggle to get free, but when he does shed blocks it is because of strong hands. Standing at 6-foot-4 Cunningham has the length to keep lineman off his body, and uses that ability to make plays. Many players at the college level shed blocks then stop, Cunningham is looking to make a play as soon as he breaks free.

Occasionally Cunningham takes bad angles, and most of the time it is against really fast players. Nine out of ten times Cunningham takes a good angle and is in position to make a play. Cunningham misses a tackle everyone misses a tackle every once in a while, most of the time it is due to a poor angle that has him diving or attempting an arm tackle.

Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt LB) vs Georgia 2016

Pass Defense

Zach Cunningham is plenty capable of running with tight ends and has the size to make it difficult to throw over him. When asked to cover running backs Cunningham should not be left on an island, shifty players give him fits. When in zone coverage Cunningham doesn’t try to cover crossing routes, he just knocks out crossing routes but at the next level that could draw a lot of penalties.

Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt LB) vs Georgia 2016

As a blitzer Cunningham has all the tools to excel, he just doesn’t. Cunningham didn’t register a single sack this year. His problem is that he shows blitz too early or mistimes it. Cunningham also lacks a pass rush move, he essentially just runs full speed into a blocker.


In 2016, Cunningham was an All-SEC first team selection and a Butkus award finalist. Cunningham was also a 2015 first team All American. Cunningham has all the tools to succeed at the next level, and the instincts to have a long career. His best fit is at weak side linebacker, preferably in a 4-3.

Pro Comp: Lavonte David

Round: 1-2

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