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Friday, April 23, 2010
Instant analysis: Jermaine Cunningham

By Mike Reiss

FOXBORO -- The Patriots need to come out of the 2010 NFL Draft with a boost to their pass rush, specifically at outside linebacker, and they surprised in the second round (53rd overall) by picking the lesser-known of Florida's two candidates -- Jermaine Cunningham (19.5 sacks).

If the Patriots looked to Florida to fill the void, most figured the choice would be Carlos Dunlap.

The first thing that stands out with Cunningham is size (6-3, 266), which means he's a bit longer and sturdier than some of the other better-known "conversion type" prospects in the draft, such as Jerry Hughes (6-1, 255).

The Patriots generally prefer that type of length and size, and that is the one thing I take from this pick at this time -- the Patriots still haven't drafted an undersized rusher in the early rounds of Bill Belichick's tenure. That is a clear pattern that has continued in 2010. The Patriots value that length and sturdiness in their scheme.

According to the Pro Football Weekly draft guide, Cunningham was arrested in December of 2007 on misdemeanor battery charges, although the state opted not to pursue the case, citing insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction. The Patriots obviously felt like off-field issues aren't a concern, and Belichick's connections with Florida coach Urban Meyer probably gave him comfort in making the pick.