2017 NFL Draft Kansas City Chiefs Scouting Report: Zach Cunningham

2017 NFL Draft prospect Zach Cunningham. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
2017 NFL Draft prospect Zach Cunningham. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports /

Many in Chiefs Kingdom believe the Kansas City Chiefs should be in the market for an inside linebacker. Zach Cunningham is one of the best.

The Kansas City Chiefs depth chart was put to the test at inside linebacker this past season. The Chiefs lost starter Josh Mauga before the year even began. Backup Justin March played less than half the season before getting injured. The the great Derrick Johnson went down with a blown achilles. It was a complete mess that has sparked some debate on the future of the position.

I’m on record as saying that I believe Ramik Wilson is the eventual successor to Derrick Johnson. However, not all Chiefs fans are on board with that idea. Also, I have no way of knowing for sure what the Kansas City Chiefs leadership thinks about it. So talking about drafting an inside linebacker is not ridiculous. One of the top players there is Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham.

For his own part, Derrick Johnson has already stated he intends to finish the two years on his contract. Johnson believes that he will be ready to go at the start of Training Camp. If DJ isn’t ready by then, it has to be believed that Ramik Wilson is first in line as his backup. Wilson has stepped in for the Chiefs to play extensively in each of his first two seasons. He has done well in his roles, which is why I like him as the future starter.

“If you can find a better defensive player in the SEC or in college football, show him to me.” ~ Vandy Coach Derek Mason on Zach Cunningham

The other starting inside linebacker spot appears to belong to Justin March at this point. While I have confidence in both March and Wilson as the future starters, not everyone shares that belief. There are still questions to be answered for both March and Wilson as both are young players. So the Kansas City Chiefs may be in the market for another linebacker. Zach Cunningham definitely checks all the boxes.

Zach Cunningham – ILB – Vanderbilt

If you were making a list of desired attributes for an inside linebacker, Zach Cunningham would check almost every box. Cunningham has drawn praise from just about anyone and everyone who has seen him play. That includes Vandy coach Derek Mason who said: “If you can find a better defensive player in the SEC or in college football, show him to me.”

More from Chiefs Draft Analysis

Zach Cunningham is an elite-level athlete. He brings a quality mix of speed and quickness for the position that allows him to make blockers miss, even in a confined area. Cunningham also has long arms that allow him to fight off blockers and get to the ball carrier. Those same attributes help him out in the passing game. He has also shown a strong ability to identify passing lanes and to read the quarterback’s eyes.

The Vandy linebacker also understands how to play the game of football. When watching the tape, it’s easy to see Cunningham’s ability to recognize the play and make adjustments. His situational awareness is also very strong as he seldom looks lost on the field.

The only concern I have with Zach Cunningham is in his size. Cunningham is a bit underweight to play up the middle. His lack of size also resulted in some missed tackles as bigger backs were able to shake him. However, he possesses the frame to add plenty more weight. The question there though is how that will affect his athleticism.

Next: NFL Draft: Kansas City Chiefs Scouting Report Central

If the Kansas City Chiefs do decide they want an inside linebacker early, I’m all for them taking Zach Cunningham. This is a quality football player who will make whatever team he is on better. However, I do believe the Chiefs already have their future  starters on the roster. So I just don’t see this move happening.