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Redskins draft countdown: Would the Redskins spend a first on LB Zach Cunningham?

Redskins draft countdown: Would the Redskins spend a first on LB Zach Cunningham?

Redskins draft countdown

The NFL draft is 44 days away and there is plenty of speculation as to what players the Redskins will select to wear the burgundy and gold. Between now and the draft we’ll look at some of the players who might be of interest to the Redskins and discuss how they might fit in Washington.

Zach Cunningham

Inside linebacker

Height: 6-3
Weight: 234
40-yard dash: 4.67

Projected draft round: 1

What they’re saying

Cunningham sports a long-levered frame with broad shoulders, a tapered middle and plenty of room for additional muscle mass without significantly impacting his impressive quickness, agility and speed. He attacks oncoming blockers with an aggressive and powerful initial punch, quickly disengaging on his way to the ball. Unlike most linebackers with his length, Cunningham shows good recognition and body control to slip cut blocks, as well, sprawling to maintain his balance and rarely losing sight of the ball. 

Rob Rang, CBSSports.com

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins start a pair of inside linebackers who are smart players and great teammates but Will Compton and Mason Foster are limited athletically. If the Redskins want to upgrade here, Cunningham would be a good place to start. He is a playmaking machine, fast and aggressive.

He led the SEC in tackling, although some are concerned that his tackling technique needs some work. His pad level tends to be too high but that is something that can be corrected by coaches.  

Potential issues: He is tall and angular and he has issues fighting off blockers, especially if they go low in him. Having a good defensive line in front of him will help mitigate that and, as of now, that is not an asset that the Redskins possess at the moment.

Although he played on the inside at Vanderbilt, many draft analysts think that he would be better suited to playing a weakside linebacker in a 4-3. But the Redskins are in 4-3 often enough that he could play inside in base and then go outside when the OLBs put their hands in the dirt on passing downs. Still, a first-round linebacker has to be a three-down player and the Redskins would have to be convinced that he can play inside in base defense.

Cunningham is a much better value later in the first round and he could be a reach at No. 17. It seems like they are always open to trading back so perhaps they could do that and snag him somewhere in the twenties.

Bottom line: The Redskins have never use major assets for the inside or middle linebacker positions. Since the merger, they have not spent a first- or second-round draft pick on the position. The only major free agent acquisition there was London Fletcher and the contract he signed with Washington in 2007 was not a blockbuster. Their primary philosophy has been to draft in the middle rounds (Perry Riley) or not draft at all (Compton) and develop.

So, will the Redskins change a philosophy that stretches back for decades? You never know but it would be a surprise if they take a player like Cunningham in the first even though he could provide an instant boost to the offense.

In his own words:

When asked for a self-scouting report:

I have a great work ethic. Passion for the game. Passion for what I do. A hard player. A team player. Always putting the team first. But is going to sell himself out for his teammates as much as my teammates would see themselves out for me.

Previously in Redskins draft countdown:

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Redskins draft oft-injured Auburn CB Joshua Holsey with their final pick


Redskins draft oft-injured Auburn CB Joshua Holsey with their final pick

The Redskins haven't shied away from using draft picks on players with an injury history, and that trend continued all the way to their final pick of the draft with Auburn CB Joshua Holsey.

Holsey missed parts of the 2013 and 2015 seasons at Auburn due to torn ACLs, but rebounded with a strong season in 2016. He had 30 tackles, three interceptions and 10 passes defended in his senior season.


He was overlooked through most of the draft process due to his injury history and was snubbed at the combine. 

The seventh round is a spot to take a flier on a guy who has some traits you like, and this certainly fits the bill with the pick of Joshua Holsey. 


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All or nothing? Redskins roll dice on 7th-round safety with lots of talent

All or nothing? Redskins roll dice on 7th-round safety with lots of talent

With two picks in the seventh round, the Redskins rolled the dice and selected Josh Harvey-Clemons. A safety from Louisville that started his career at Georgia, Harvey-Clemons was a five star recruit out of high school that eventually left Georgia due to multiple positive drug tests.

His junior year at Louisville, however, was a breakout season for Harvey-Clemons. Here are three things to know:

  1. Testing - At Georgia, Harvey-Clemons dealt with multiple suspensions for marijuana. That had a major impact on his draft status, and will have the eyes of the NFL watching him on the next level.
  2. Size - Harvey-Clemons has the size to play safety in the NFL, or maybe even more of a hybrid role like Su'a Cravens as a rookie. He's listed at 6-foot-4 and 217 lbs. NFL.com describes him with an "alpha mentality."
  3. Keep it together - After sitting out a transfer year, Harvey-Clemons played well at Lousville for two seasons. He logged more than 140 tackles and took ACC conference honors in 2015 and 2016. Whatever problems he had early in his college career (cough pot cough) he controlled at Louisville. If that continues, Harvey Clemons could have a chance at making the Redskins roster.

Simply put? The Redskins rolled the dice on a kid with good size and tackling ability who had problems with marijuana early in his college career. A lot of college students have problems smoking marijuana early in their college career. In the 7th round, this seems like a good gamble.


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