According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Denver Broncos had a last minute visit with Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham before the deadline for pre-draft visits happened.
This is a very interesting visit.
Cunningham is listed a 6'3" and comes in at 234lbs. He has 34 3/8" arms, 9 1/4" hands and is exactly the type of linebacker the Broncos need.
At Vanderbilt, he was a playmaker. High energy, non-stop motor, downhill player and someone who will do whatever it takes to make a play. He is at his best when he's in space. He will chase you down and more often than not tackle you behind the line of scrimmage. He is very athletic and can cover tight ends and running backs with ease. He's basically a plug and play linebacker for whoever selects him.
Cunningham played three seasons at Vanderbilt and during those years he turned into one of the better linebackers in the SEC. During his three-year career, he totaled 256 tackles, 36 tackles for a loss, 6 pass deflections, 7 fumble recoveries, and 6 forced fumbles. This past season he totaled 125 tackles(Led the SEC in that category), 16.5 tackles for a loss, 3 pass deflections, 4 fumble recoveries, and 2 forced fumbles. His 2016 season earned first-team All-SEC honors as well as first-team Associated Press All-American honors.
Zach Cunningham is an outstanding thumper that loves taking on and destroying blocks from linemen.https://t.co/WtSiqmw7q7— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) April 18, 2017
I really like his fit on the Broncos. He may not be a three-down player right away for the Broncos with Todd Davis currently on the roster, but plug him into their sub-packages/nickel defense and let him do his thing. He's explosive, nose for the ball, great in space, good in coverage and has solid instincts and a high motor. Now he does have some flaws, but if you let him do what he is good at he can be a very good player in the NFL.
His draft range appears to be a wide one. I've seen him mocked anywhere from top 15 to early third round. My best guess is that he is a top 50-ish player and a likely early day two prospect. He may fall to the Broncos in the second round, but I have my doubts.
The inside linebacker position is an interesting one for the Broncos. It has been a need ever since Elway took over the Broncos and it's a position he has not spent many early draft picks on. Hell, before he re-signed Brandon Marshall, it was a position he hasn't spent much money on. So questions about how highly he values the position are often questioned.
I personally believe he doesn't value it all that highly and looks towards cheaper/later rounds to address the position. One example to back this up is looking at the current crop of inside linebackers on the roster. Both Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis were waiver wire gets, Corey Nelson was a sixth round pick, and Zaire Anderson was an undrafted free agent. So while I'd love an early round pick spent on an inside linebacker, I'm not really expecting it. However, this deep inside linebacker class will really test this theory.
Anyways, check out these exciting highlights from Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham!