#41 LB Zach Cunningham (6’4 | 238 | 4.64)
One of the best linebacker prospects in the nation who has flown under the radar at Vandy. Cunningham, an All-SEC selection, has all the tools team’s look for in a linebacker; he has the speed to be a sideline-to-sideline run stopper which he showed by leading the SEC with 119 tackles this season, enough pass rush ability to play outside at the next level, the length and coverage ability to shut down opposing tight ends, and the strength and technique to shed blockers in traffic.
Cunningham is the complete package at ILB and should be a no-doubt first round pick. He’s built a bit like Bers rookie Leonard Floyd and while he doesn’t have Floyd’s elite burst off the edge, Cunningham plays much stronger verse the run. He has elite awareness to recognize where the ball is, uses his long arms to keep blockers off him, and has the closing speed to finish plays.
If there is one flaw in Cunningham’s game is that he misses too many tackles. With above-average height for an ILB, he attacks ball carries too high at times allowing smaller backs to get away. It’s a fixable flaw though, which Cunningham already showed signs of improving in 2016.
The Bears are set at ILB in 2017 with Freeman, Trevathan, and Kwiatkoski already entrenched at the position, but Cunningham would be too good to pass on if he slips to the second round. That’s unlikely though as he should be a mid-first round pick at the latest.
Projection: 1st round
#74 OT Will Holden (6’7 | 313 | 5.15)
A 2nd team All-SEC left tackle who has done a solid job protecting the quarterback’s blind side in a conference full of elite pass rushers. Holden has very quick feet for his size and a fast drop-step that allows him to get wide enough to neutralize speed rushers consistently. He’s also shown enough strength to move defenders in the run game, though he’s more of a zone blocker than a phone booth mauler.
Holden put up impressive stats this year with 30 pancake blocks and 16 domination blocks* and has the size, strength, and technique necessary to play on either side of the line at the next level. He’ll probably need to bulk up a little to be effective in the NFL, but his feet should keep him in the league for a long time.
The Bears have two solid tackles in Leno Jr and Massie, but are very thin behind them. MIke Adams was a disaster as a swing tackle and the Bears could be looking to upgrade at the position. Holden would be an ideal fit with the versatility to play either side, the feet to excel in the Bears zone blocking scheme, and the potential to eventually take over on the left side for Leno Jr.
*I don’t know what domination block means, but I’m excited that o-linemen finally have a new stat.
Projection: 3rd-4th round
#7 RB Ralph Webb (5’10 | 202 | 4.53)
The junior back is a patient, downhill runner who has put up two solid seasons in a row for the Commodores. Webb improved on his 1,152 yard, 5 TD sophomore season with 1,172 yards, 12 touchdowns, and an impressive 5.1 yards per carry despite being the main focus of opposing defenses.
With a loaded draft class at running back this year, Webb would be better off staying for his senior season but his current projection of an early day three pick might be enough to convice him to declare early.
Physically nothing stands out about Webb, but his production in the toughest conference in CFB is too impressive to discount. Webb’s best traits are his vision to find the right hole, his patience to wait for it to open, and his burst to get through it. Once through the hole, Webb is a downhill runner with some wiggle and enough power to fall forward and gain yards after contact. He’s shown decent hands out of the backfield as well with 53 career catches.
The Bears should be looking for an upgrade over backup running back Jeremy Langford and a solid all-around back like Webb would make sense as a day three target.
Projection: 5th-6th round