This story is intended to be read by Pewter Insider subscribers only. Sharing of the PI content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.
All right, draftniks. You know that Pewter Report is the undisputed king of Tampa Bay Buccaneers draft coverage. We've listed players, such as quarterback Josh Freeman (2009), wide receiver Dexter Jackson (2008), offensive lineman Jeremy Zuttah (2008), quarterback Josh Johnson (2008), defensive end Gaines Adams (2007), linebacker Quincy Black (2007), wide receiver Maurice Stovall (2006), quarterback Bruce Gradkowski (2006), middle linebacker Barrett Ruud (2005), cornerback Torrie Cox (2003) – among others, at their respective positions in the Bucs' Best Bets sections of Pewter Report's annual Bucs Draft Preview.
As the 2010 NFL Draft approaches, Pewter Report's resident draft experts, Scott Reynolds and Charlie Campbell, have spent countless hours watching over 12 college games per week and scouting which prospects would look good wearing red and pewter next year. With over 500 college games to review dating back over the last four years and countless scouting contacts throughout the NFL, Reynolds and Campbell are armed with the inside scoop needed to put together these scouting reports on players who might fit Tampa Bay's schemes on offense and defense.
The casual football fan already has a good deal of knowledge on likely first-round draft prospects, such as Texas quarterback Colt McCoy, USC safety Taylor Mays, and Florida linebacker Brandon Spikes. These regular Pewter Insider features on PewterReport.com will scout out players that are candidates for the Buccaneers to select in next April's draft.
Will one of these players wind up being the next Ruud, Zuttah or Johnson? We'll all find out next April when Tampa Bay is on the clock.
FLORIDA DEFENSIVE END JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM VITAL STATS: Cunningham checks in at 6-foot-3, 252-pounds. The Stone Mountain, Georgia product has timed in the low 4.7 range in the 40-yard dash.
CREDENTIALS Cunningham is the Gators' leader on the defensive line. He is a four-year contributor that had 11.5 sacks the past two seasons (six sacks in 2008 and 5.5 in 2007). Four games into his senior season, Cunningham has played in a total of 36 games, and has started 29 contests after getting on the field as a true freshman on Florida's 2006 National Championship team. For his career, Cunningham has 22 tackles for a loss, 118 tackles, 12.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. He has the quickness and speed to be an effective pass rusher. The Gators right defensive end is a hard worker, and a leader on the defense. Cunningham has been banged up some in 2009, but has gotten healthy in time for Florida's big showdowns with LSU and Georgia in the coming weeks. WHY HE COULD BE A RED AND PEWTER PLAYER In 2009, the biggest weakness on the Bucs defense has been a lack of pass rush from the defensive line. The defensive ends in particular have struggled to get to the quarterback. Gaines Adams, Jimmy Wilkerson, and Stylez G. White have combined for three sacks in four games. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, defensive end is one of the weakest positions for NFL talent in the 2010 NFL Draft class. There are not a lot of proven pass rushers in the draft, and Cunningham may be one of the safest picks among the defensive end options. He has been a consistent performer going against great talent in the SEC.
Cunningham is a skilled pass rushing defensive end and brings a lot of experience to the table. While he has never had a season with huge sack numbers, Cunningham has been a steady performer. He is very good against the run, and has produced quality tackle numbers (52 tackles in 2008 and 64 stops in 2007) the past two seasons. Cunningham plays with physicality that other Bucs defensive ends lack, and he has a large repertoire of moves. He is a hard-working leader in the Gators locker room with a fire-starter attitude.
TOUGHEST TRANSITION IN TAMPA BAY Cunningham has a few things he needs to prove for the next level. He hasn't had a huge season's worth of sack production, so he will need to at least have another year like his past two years to show that while he doesn't put up massive numbers, he can be counted on to put up quality numbers every year. Cunningham should add some strength to hold up against NFL offensive tackles, but given his frame that should not be much of a problem. Cunningham is a leader, but got into some off-field trouble as a sophomore.
RECORDS AND SUPERLATIVES Cunningham is a second-team All-SEC performer, and a Phil Steele first-team All-SEC performer. He was named a preseason candidate for the Ted Hendricks Defensive Player of the Year, and the Bronko Nagurski award.
Cunningham set the record for tackles in a game by a SEC defensive linemen for the 2007 season with 17 tackles at LSU and he was absolutely dominant in that contest. He had some off-field issues in 2007 when he was in an altercation with a Jimmy John's restaurant clerk. Cunningham was arrested for battery after throwing empty cans of soda, and a sandwich at the clerk. HIS BIGGEST GAMES 10/6/07 at LSU – 17 tackles, two passes broken up 10/20/07 at Kentucky – 2.5 sacks, 7 tackles 11/3/07 Vanderbilt – One interception, 5 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss 8/30/08 vs. Hawaii – 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 12/06/08 vs. Alabama – 5 tackles, one sack DRAFT PROJECTION Cunningham is projected to go after the first round right now. The numbers are not there for him to make it in the top 32 picks, but Cunningham is going to be aided by a weak crop of defensive ends. At this time, there are about four or five senior defensive ends that will get drafted before him because of better measureables and some due to better production. A few juniors will come out early and push Cunningham down further. Some of those players are 3-4 outside linebackers at the next level, and therefore are not fits for Bucs defensive coordinator Jim Bates' 4-3 scheme. Cunningham projects to go between the second and fourth rounds at this time. Given the Bucs' need for a defensive end that is consistent at getting to the quarterback, snatching a pro-ready defensive end like Cunningham at the top of the third round might be good value.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com