Meet The Prospect

Meet the Prospect: Zach Cunningham

Posted Apr 14, 2017

Get to know linebacker prospect Zach Cunningham.

Name: Zach Cunningham

Position: Linebacker

School: Vanderbilt

Ht/Wt: 6-3, 234

40 dash: 4.67

Bench: 15 reps

Vertical: 35.0 inches

Broad: 125.0 inches

3-cone: 7.03 seconds

How he fits: Cunningham led Vandy with 125 tackles and 16.5 tackles for loss last season. He recorded 33.0 tackles for loss his last two seasons for the Commodores. He also forced six fumbles and recovered four fumbles over that span.

It’s been well documented how much Detroit’s linebackers lacked playmaking ability last season. The Lions could use someone like Cunningham, who plays downhill with good instincts.

He’s not a thumper at 234 pounds, but that’s not his game. He chases the ball and plays well in space, which makes him a good fit as a WILL in a 4-3. It just so happens Detroit is on the lookout for a new starting WILL after releasing DeAndre Levy.

The Lions will head into the start of the offseason training program next week with Tahir Whitehead, Paul Worrilow and Antwione Williams as the top three linebackers on the roster, but should be on the lookout to add to that group via the draft.

Key observations: Cunningham's 71 solo tackles ranked second among all SEC defenders in 2016. He was also tied for third in the SEC, with 16.5 tackles for loss.

What they had to say about him: “Listed 18th overall on my initial Big Board in August, Cunningham only reinforced my opinion throughout the regular season that he warrants top-20 consideration. Instinctive, aggressive and athletic, Cunningham offers an exciting and versatile skill set sure to intrigue any creative defensive coordinator in the NFL. Cunningham led the SEC with 125 tackles in 2016 -- 22 more than he posted a year ago, when he earned All-SEC honors despite not starting until the fourth game.” -- Rob Rang, CBSSports.com

How he stacks up: It is interesting that most analysts consider Cunningham among the top linebackers in this draft, but NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah doesn’t include him in his top 50 prospects. Cunningham also comes in at No. 54 on Scout’s Inc. prospects ranking. Some may question his playing strength, explosion and game speed due to his Combine numbers. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock lists Cunningham as the fourth-best linebacker prospect available in this draft. ESPN’s Todd McShay lists Cunningham No. 3 behind Reuben Foster (Alabama) and Haason Reddick (Temple) among the inside linebacker prospects available. He's fourth among inside linebackers, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

What he had to say: “I think I’m a lengthy player. A pretty fast player. Speed. A sideline-to-sideline player. And that’s something that has helped me. That and my instincts have helped me to be a good player.”