Zach Cunningham (41) / HANEWINCKEL / USA TODAY Sports Images

Green Bay Packers Day 2 Lookahead: Inside Linebackers

Inside linebacker isn't a pressing need but Vanderbilt's Zach Cunningham could be a coveted three-down defender.

After three players were selected in the first round, here are the Day 2 options at running back. The Green Bay Packers own two picks in the second round (Nos. 33 and 61) and one pick in the third round (No. 93).

Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt (6-3 1-2, 234; 4.67 40; 4.29 shuttle): Junior. Cunningham left Vandy after becoming the first unanimous first-team All-American in school history. In 2016, the Butkus Award finalist ranked among national leaders in several categories, including an SEC-leading 125 total tackles and four fumble recoveries. His 71 solo tackles ranked second in the league and his 16.5 tackles for losses ranked third. While most players with high TFL counts are pass rushers, Cunningham didn’t record a single sack; all of his tackles for losses stopped running plays. Thus, not surprisingly, he ranked third in PFF’s run-stop percentage. He added three pass breakups. However, he was 14th in tackling efficiency with a whopping 20 misses. That often was a byproduct of being tall and rangy, which resulted in inconsistent pad level and issues breaking down in space. With his size, intelligence and agility, he is one of the top coverage linebackers in this draft. In three seasons, Cunningham amassed 295 tackles, 39.5 tackles for losses and seven forced fumbles. “I think I’m a lengthy player. A pretty fast player. Speed. A sideline to sideline player. And that’s something that has helped me. That and my instincts has helped me to be a good player.” He is one of seven children.

Duke Riley, LSU (6-0 1/2, 232; 4.58 40; 4.21 shuttle): After starting just one game in his first three seasons, Riley started 12 times as a senior and was voted team MVP. He finished with a team-high 93 tackles, nine tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks, one interception and three hurries. Riley ranked 10th in run-stop percentage and seventh in tackling efficiency (nine misses). “(Teams) love who I am. They love how I can write up the whole defense by position, not just one but multiple defenses They watch my tape and love my tape. Film don’t lie. They love the things I can do and things I’m capable of.” He’s got the athleticism and length (32 7/8 arms) to be a three-down player if his instincts keep improving, but he might not be great in either phase. Playing for LSU was Riley’s dream, even when he was being beaten up or having his glasses — the glasses he so badly needed after being nearly blinded by spinal meningitis — broken by other kids in his hometown of Buras, La. “I was always the one being picked on, never the best athlete. My Facebook name has been the same since I made (an account). It sounds corny, but it’s ‘Duke Dream Chaser Riley.’ I wrote that on there because I really meant that. I was always chasing this life I’m living right now.”

Raekwon McMillian, Ohio State (6-1 7/8, 240; 4.61 40; 4.39 shuttle): Junior. McMillan was first-team all-Big Ten, second-team All-America and a finalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy and Butkus Award in his final season. He had 102 tackles, including two sacks and seven for losses, plus two forced fumbles and four passes broken up. He was even better as a sophomore, with 119 tackles, 1.5 sacks, four tackles for losses and four passes defensed — good for first-team all-Big Ten, second-team All-America and third place in Butkus balloting. In 2016, he ranked sixth in run-stop percentage and fourth in tackling efficiency (10 missed tackles). He’ll be a two-down linebacker, however, because he is poor in coverage and lacks the athleticism to significantly improve. Who needs to talk trash when you’ve got your mom going on Twitter and saying “Light his ass up!!!” to a member of the Sooners who claimed the OSU system was simplistic? McMillian won the high school Butkus Award at Liberty County (Ga.) High.

Alex Anzalone, Florida (6-2 7/8, 241; 4.63 40; 4.25 shuttle): Junior. Anzalone tallied 53 tackles, including three sacks and four tackles for losses, during a final season that was cut short with a broken arm sustained in the eighth game of the season. He ranked 14th in run-stop percentage and 12th in tackling efficiency (seven misses) but was the most effective blitzer. Injuries are by far the biggest question mark. He missed most of the 2015 season with a shoulder injury and battled shoulder injuries as a freshman in 2013, as well. All of the injuries left him a work in progress from a fundamental perspective, as he relied on his size and athletic ability to win at Florida. He doesn’t have much experience in coverage, either, but he’s got the potential to be an asset in that phase. But can he stay healthy? His four-year totals were 75 tackles, three sacks and five TFLs. There’s no doubting his intelligence. Anzalone was a graduate student during the 2016 season. In high school, he had a 4.8 GPA.

Jordan Evans, Oklahoma (6-2 7/8, 232; 4.51 40; 4.18 shuttle): Evans was one of the surprise Combine snubs. The three-year starter posted 286 tackles, 22 tackles for losses, five interceptions, four forced fumbles and 16 passes defensed for his career. The PBU count is tied for second in school history among linebackers. As a senior, the team captain and first-team all-Big 12 choice had 98 tackles, including 2.5 sacks and 10 for losses, plus four interceptions and eight pass breakups. Evans ranked 13th in run-stop percentage and 10th in tackling efficiency (12 misses). He had a great pro day was his 40 time ranking No. 1 among the inside linebacker class, his shuttle ranking second and his vertical (38 1/2) ranking third. He had a predraft visit to Green Bay. At worst, he’ll be the third-down coverage linebacker because of his athleticism, instincts and length.

Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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