New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese should seriously think about drafting linebacker Zach Cunningham in the 2017 NFL Draft.In his 10 years as the New York Giants General Manager, Jerry Reese has developed a few habits. One of the most notable ones is staying away from linebackers in the first round. However, depending on how the draft turns out, Reese may be left considering a linebacker this year.
In the 2016 season, the Giants once again had one of the worst linebacking corps in the league. The only player that should be locked in as a starter, at the position, for the 2017 season should be Devon Kennard.
That being said, the linebacking corps is not in a position to succeed anytime soon. Their best linebacker in coverage, Keenan Robinson is a free agent. He even finished the year with a 44 overall grade, according to PFF.
One way to upgrade the Giants pitiful linebackers is through the draft. The G-Men own the 23rd overall pick in the draft. With that pick, they should be in the perfect range to draft the linebacker of their dreams, Zach Cunningham, from Vanderbilt.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound linebacker has the ideal measurables for the position. In addition, he is expected to run a solid 40-yard dash, somewhere in the 4.75 range.
In the modern NFL, linebackers who can play all three downs are becoming a necessity for every team. Luckily, for whoever drafts Cunningham, he is a three-down linebacker.
Although his run defense is serviceable, what stands out about Cunningham is his pass defense. He is the best coverage linebacker in the draft. This could get him over drafted, as the direction of the game is going towards passing more than running.
The ideal position for Cunningham is the WILL linebacker in 4-3. Playing the WILL in the pros will allow the Vandy linebacker to fully take advantage of his talents. This way, he will be able to make plays while in base packages. Then on third downs, he can showcase his coverage abilities.
In order to succeed in the NFL, Cunningham will have to work on tackling and adding strength. Although the linebacker tries in run defense, he could put on some muscle and work on his tackling. One of the biggest knocks he’s received is his missed tackles. Some feel as though he will be a poor tackler as a pro.
One of the things that is hard to teach is how to be a playmaker. Cunningham is a playmaker, and after all, you do not get to be an AP All-American for nothing.
Unfortunately for the G-Men, the NFC East has some of the best tight ends in the league. For years Big Blue fans have witnessed tight ends such as Jason Witten and Jordan Reed tear up the Giants. The drafting of Cunningham would be a step in the right direction towards solving this problem.
If drafted by the Giants, Cunningham would slide right into the WILL position. He has the potential to be Big Blue’s best linebacker in a while. He will also be their top coverage linebacker. In today’s NFL, it is not a bad idea to have linebackers that can play all three downs. A pick like this should be enough to vault the Giants defense to the next level.
This can only be made possible if Jerry Reese decides to ditch the silly idea of not drafting linebackers in the first round. So please, Jerry Reese, if Zach Cunningham is on the board when the Giants are drafting, please at least consider him.