Mr. Irrelevant 2013: What You Need to Know About Last Player Picked in NFL Draft
The Indianapolis Colts held the Mr. Irrelevant pick for the second year in a row, and on Saturday the team used the final selection (No. 254 overall) of the 2013 NFL draft on former South Carolina Gamecocks tight end Justice Cunningham.
A celebration of Mr. Irrelevant will occur during the 38th annual "Irrelevant Week," which takes place in early July in Newport Beach, Calif., and functions as a charity event in addition to celebrating Cunningham's unique draft status (h/t IrrelevantWeek.org).
GM Ryan Grigson and Co. took two tight ends early in the draft last year, which makes Cunningham's chances of making the final roster a bit more difficult. However, there are plenty of aspects to like about his game.
What follows is what you need to know about Cunningham—from general information to how his talents will ultimately translate to the NFL level.
Basic Background Information
Major: Sport and Entertainment Management
Hometown: Pageland, S.C.
High School: Central High School (Pageland, S.C.)
After a successful career at the high school level in which he registered 20 sacks at defensive end as a senior, Cunningham joined Steve Spurrier's program in 2009 and made his presence felt immediately.
The defensive background allowed him to be a special teams ace, and his experience at the tight end position at Central got him onto the two-deep depth chart as a freshman, where he then made two starts.
Cunningham eventually evolved into a team captain as a senior after being a 2-star recruit (h/t Rivals) and never missed a game in his four years on the gridiron for the Gamecocks.
Note: Information courtesy of GamecocksOnline.com.
By the Numbers
The impact that Cunningham has on the gridiron isn't always seen in the box score, but he did improve his receiving ability every year.
Blocking is this tight end's strong suit, so he won't be the next dynamic receiving tight end. However, his hands are relatively soft, and he has flashed the ability to make big plays.
Check out the grab he made in an early-season game against Vanderbilt in the video above—and how quickly he popped back up from a huge hit to the head.
Measurements and Test Results
Weight: 258 lbs.
Arm Length: 33 7/8"
Hand Size: 10"
NFL Scouting Combine
40-Yard Dash: 4.94
Broad Jump: 116"
Vertical Jump: 31.5"
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.45
60-Yard Shuttle: 11.88
Three-Cone Drill: 7.12
The combine drills showcased Cunningham's short-area explosiveness and agility, which were critical to his success at the point of attack with the Gamecocks. Cunningham was the fourth-best performer at his position in the broad jump.
Cunningham's 40-yard dash time won't woo anyone, but he still moves well enough to be a threat against linebackers. His relatively swift change of direction is evident in his shuttle runs as well.
Note: All combine numbers are courtesy of NFL.com.
As one of the Gamecocks' senior captains, it's obvious that Cunningham commanded the respect of his teammates. His fundamentals are sound, and his biggest strength is blocking rather than pass-catching.
A common term that I think of when seeing Cunningham is "throwback," because he is a dominant presence in the trenches. His NFL.com scouting report points out that he was sometimes utilized as a third offensive tackle.
Cunningham's skills as a receiver are only improving, though, and as he becomes more polished in that regard, he has the makings to become, well, a very relevant Mr. Irrelevant.
The physicality with which Cunningham plays makes him an exciting prospect. Any shortcomings he has will be combated effectively by his football intelligence and strong work ethic. Overcoming a 2-star high school label to be drafted in the NFL isn't totally unheard of, but it's a testament to the hours Cunningham dedicated to improving himself.
Though his marginal athleticism doesn't allow him to be as effective in the passing game, Cunningham is still valuable in pass protection and could easily slip off blocks to make catches in the flat.
Route-running is actually an asset for Cunningham, and he should only improve in that area. He's clearly not afraid to go over the middle or leave himself susceptible in climbing the ladder.
As hinted at earlier, the Indianapolis Colts selected tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen in the second and third rounds, respectively, in the 2012 NFL draft.
Allen was the more productive receiver, as he was used as more of a fullback/H-back hybrid under Bruce Arians. It remains to be seen where he'll line up moving forward, but QB Andrew Luck is now reunited with his college offensive coordinator, Pep Hamilton.
Fleener was college roommates with Luck and will obviously have familiarity with what Hamilton does in Indianapolis. Multiple tight end sets were effective for Luck in his final year with the Cardinal, and the Colts' two-deep tandem has the requisite skills to thrive.
That leaves Cunningham to be a likely fixture in jumbo sets—only occasionally looking for passes from Luck aimed his way.
But Cunningham may already be the team's best blocking tight end, which should help Indianapolis' offense have more balance. Pass protection was also a weak point last season, and although that's been a focus this offseason, Cunningham provides more fortification in that regard.
Cunningham may not catch on with the Colts, yet based on the team's current personnel, there is at least a reasonable shot for him to make their final 53-man roster.