Friday, April 23, 2010
Patriots tab OLB with third selection
By Tim Graham
After drafting a cornerback and a tight end, the New England Patriots went after the position many analysts predicted they'd address first, taking Florida outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham 53rd.
Why the Patriots took him: They had to bolster their pass rush. They re-signed Tully Banta-Cain, who led them with 10 sacks last season, but veterans Adalius Thomas and Derrick Burgess combined for only eight more sacks.
Where Cunningham fits: Scouting reports indicate Cunningham is a work in progress and needs to grow into the role. This probably isn't the type of addition that will decide whether the Patriots part ways with the disappointing, and highly paid, Thomas. That conclusion -- if it hasn't already -- will be reached independently.
Scouts Inc. says: Lacks elite top-end speed. Still developing his swim and rip techniques. Tries to use speed-to-power moves, but is only effective on occasion and typically versus tight ends and smaller tackles. Has a very quick first step and excellent change-of-direction skills, though. He will work to the whistle and disrupt the quarterback on pure effort at times. Can't overlook his production (12.5 sacks) versus elite competition the past two seasons. ... Does a good job staying off of blocks and working his way down the line. He plays with solid leverage but simply lacks the bulk and base to anchor at the point of attack. He needs to play with more discipline as well. He will cost his team occasionally by getting sucked inside.