It is well known that the Packers need a significant boost in defense and they don’t just have problems with their secondary. Another problem the Packers have defensively is the linebacker position and that was before veteran Julius Peppers left for free agency. Nick Perry had an impressive year leading the team in sacks and Clay Matthews will always be the stable of the entire defense but he constantly has problems remaining healthy. Besides them, they have the young Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez and Kyler Fackrell who all have limited potential since they were Day 2-3 picks. This is where Zach Cunningham comes in as he’s expected to be available when the Packers pick and he has quite the resume. Along with being the best outside linebacker in the best conference in college football, he was twice named first-team All-SEC and was named first-team AP All-American.
If there’s two characteristics that define Cunningham’s play, it’s that he’s a playmaking machine and he always plays downhill. He processes and responds quickly to plays, he can perfectly shoot through gaps to create tackles for loss and he knows how to utilize specific speeds to trick blockers. He has also shown tremendous lateral quickness which allows him to get ahead of blockers and because he’s a playmaker, he is always at the football along with being great in creating turnovers. Last but not least he is durable and reliable so he won’t be missing any games which has been a huge problem on defense for the Packers.
Cunningham’s only significant weakness is that he doesn’t have powerful legs. He has skinny legs which can be problematic for a position that requires power, tackling and the legs are the most powerful part of the body. Because of this he tends to attack ball carriers up high, rather than low and in the NFL this will cause him to slide off of would-be tackles.
Cunningham will probably be a late day one selection. According to scouts he was especially impressive because he was doing the things he was doing without any help at Vanderbilt. It depends on who the Packers want to go with, if it’s either a cornerback, a linebacker, an offensive lineman or the best available. There is also the factor that Reuben Foster and Jabrill Peppers failed NFL drug tests which means they will drop. If Reuben Foster happens to still be available, the Packers would have to be foolish to pass him up and he’s the best linebacker in the draft.
If the Packers draft Cunningham, they would probably limit him at first to ease him into NFL competition but should Clay Matthews or Nick Perry get injured, he would be on the field for all snaps. Because Dom Capers has a history of success with moving linebackers (ex. Clay Mathews to the inside), Cunningham could be converted to an inside linebacker and he could easily get a starting job over Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez or Kyler Fackrell. The man plays hard, is durable and can make huge plays on defense, all of which is something the Packers have lacked for years.