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Kadar Mock Draft: LB Zach Cunningham pick for New York Giants at 23

The idea of drafting a linebacker in the first round is gaining some traction

NFL Combine - Day 5
Zach Cunningham at the NFL Combine.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The New York Giants have not picked a linebacker in the first round of the NFL Draft since 1984. When it comes to mock drafts leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft, though, you had better get used to seeing a linebacker given to the Giants with the 23rd overall selection.

This is the kind of thing that happens when Giants’ general manager Jerry Reese shows up at the Pro Day of a potential first-round pick, like he did last week with Vanderbilt linebacker Zach Cunningham.

SB Nation’s Dan Kadar took the bait in his most recent mock draft, released Monday morning, giving Cunningham to the Giants with his pick at 23.

Players off the board: OT Ryan Ramczyk, OT Cam Robinson, LB Haason Reddick, DE Taco Charlton, OL Forrest Lamp, DE Derek Barnett

Players passed on: DT Malik McDowell, OT Garett Bolles, RB Christian McCaffrey, DE Charles Harris, TE David Njoku (not selected in Kadar’s mock) compares Cunningham to Alec Ogletree:

Cunningham's missed tackles and lack of desired play strength could bother teams, but his consistent production is hard to ignore. Cunningham is a rangy, three-down linebacker who has a nose for the ball and special teams value. His downhill approach is made for attacking 4-3 defenses and Cunningham could become a good, early starter as a run-and-chase weak-side linebacker.

Valentine’s View: This is a pick that definitely seems like a possibility, and it would be difficult to be upset with it. Cunningham is a potential three-down linebacker. There are some questions about his strength and the idea that he is a wrap-up tackler rather than a guy who really hits people, but if you watch the film he makes plays all over the field.

Obviously, in my last seven-round mock draft I went the offensive tackle route with Bolles. There is an argument to be made for any of the players in the “passed on” list above. Cunningham, though, would be a fine choice at a position where the Giants could use the help.