With the 57th-overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, the Houston Texans selected linebacker Zach Cunningham out of the University of Vanderbilt.
Cunningham has the ability to be a tremendous player in the middle of the field. The 22-year-old out of Vanderbilt has shown his speed, agility and strength throughout his colligiate career, including a team-best 125 tackles in 2016. The Commodores don’t generate much attention int the loaded SEC, but Cunningham stood out, earning first-team SEC honors.
Last year, the redshirt junior was able to garner first-team All-American honors from the AP as well, putting him on the proverbial map for many draftniks slow to realize his potential. At 6-foot-3 and 234 pounds, he has ideal size to play on the inside of a defensive scheme as a MIKE backer.
Bench: 15 reps
His combine numbers didn’t hurt his stock, posting the best broad and vertical jumps of anybody at his position. When you watch tape of Cunningham, those numbers aren’t surprising. The Alabama native flies around, with his one area of criticism being tackling. That’s a tough knock for a player with 125 tackles in 2016, but he has to perfect his technique at the next level.
Cunningham is a smart player who adds speed and toughness to the interior of the defense. It’s a pick that has a high-floor feel to it. The Texans definitely needed to get a bit younger in the linebacking core, and they do so with the selection of Cunningham.