Re-Grading The 2010 Patriots Draft Picks: Jermaine Cunningham

Training Camp Patriots Jermaine Cunningham

Jermaine Cunningham’s Patriots career has been a disappointment through three seasons. (Photo: US Presswire)

NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope

Now three seasons removed from the 2010 NFL Draft, NEPD is looking back on the New England Patriots’ selections from that year’s draft and evaluating their successes or failure with each selection. Part three of the nine-part series, continuing each Monday, Wednesday and Friday through the NFL Scouting Combine, focuses on second-round pick Jermaine Cunningham.

The New England Patriots had three second-round picks in the 2010 NFL Draft. The one they made with their own selection — No. 53 overall pick Jermaine Cunningham, a defensive end out of Florida — has been the least productive of the trio to this point.

After two unproductive seasons to start his career, Cunningham started to carve his niche in 2012. With the Patriots having no true interior pass-rushers on its roster, the majority of Cunningham’s snaps came at defensive tackle in pass-rush situations, although he played some defensive end also.

Cunningham’s third season fell apart, however, when he was suspended four games for a performance-enhancing substance violation. He came back to play the final game of the regular season and the Patriots’ two postseason games, but did not contribute productively.

Cunningham was one of the Patriots’ most successful defensive linemen at generating pressure this season, but that is relative to the talent around him. He is not a particularly explosive pass-rusher, and only has 3.5 sacks through three NFL seasons. And although he has gotten bigger and stronger, he is not much of a factor in run defense.

Cunningham is undersized to play inside, but his ability to rush from inside while also provide depth at defensive end makes him good value at the back end of a defensive line. In a second-round pick, however, the Patriots expected him to be a starting defensive lineman, and that has not materialized.

Cunningham’s role off the bench could be largely replaced next season by Justin Francis, who came on strong late in the 2012 season as Cunningham faded, and has higher upside as a defensive end who can rush the passer from both outside and inside. Meanwhile, one of the Patriots’ top priorities in the 2013 draft should be to select a pass-rushing defensive tackle, which would also eliminate the need for Cunningham to play inside in those situations.

Barring a major spike in production, next year will likely be Cunningham’s final season with the Patriots before his contract expires in 2014. He does not project to receive considerable playing time next season unless injuries hit, which will limit his ability to have a breakout year.

For a second-round pick, Cunningham has been a disappointment.

Grade: C

Tags: 2010 NFL Draft, Draft Grades, Jermaine Cunningham, Patriots

7 Responses to “Re-Grading The 2010 Patriots Draft Picks: Jermaine Cunningham”

  1. Big Dan From Maine says:

    And to think Dunlap his teammate at Florida was takena couple of picks later. All of the prognosticators said Dunlap would be the better player and look. Another case of BB trying to outsmart the system, and it biting him

  2. qwerty says:

    Cunningham will still have a long NFL career if the Patriots do drop him. There will be no shortage of teams that will want him.

  3. Joe Blake says:

    How Cunningham got drafted in the 2nd round still amazes me as much as it amazed Urban Myer! I guess he just doesn’t have the skill set on his own. He is a smart kid, was a team captain, so hopefully he can find a workout regime and approved supplements to give him that extra strength, speed and quickness the NFL requires. 2013 is a watershed year for him. Hopefully BB steps it up in drafting and free agency; otherwise we are going to be bridesmaid team again.

  4. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I think Cunningham is ging the way of S Chung. With new draft picks coming in there is not room for all on the roster.

  5. Russell Easterbroks says:

    I think Cunningham is done, much the same as S Chung. With Armstead looking on tape like a guy who will make the team, Cunningham is headed in a differant direction. With this years draft the Patriots may grab a DT late, (I like Joe Vellano!!) which will also mean there will not be room on the roster for Cunningham.

  6. Randy says:

    From what I remember, he was drafted as a 3-4 OLB. He showed a lot of promise in that role in 2010 before the Patriots switched to the 4-3.

  7. Billy C. says:

    The “C” is quite generous!



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