NFL Draft

Mr. Irrelevant 2013: Gauging Justice Cunningham's Chances of Making Colts Roster

Photo Credit: Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports (via Tumblr)
Photo Credit: Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports (via Tumblr)Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIApril 28, 2013

The Indianapolis Colts chose ex-South Carolina Gamecocks tight end Justice Cunningham with the 254th and final overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft—making him Mr. Irrelevant.

Even with such lowly draft status, Cunningham was extremely thankful for the opportunity:

The Mr. Irrelevant label is somewhat of a backhanded compliment, but it is all in good fun. It comes with a celebratory week of the occasion in Newport Beach, Calif. and functions as a charity event dubbed Irrelevant Week.

Cunningham will even receive the hilarious Lowsman Trophy, and the 2008 version is captured on Tumblr, with that year's recipient David Vobora's name inscribed.

Vobora is currently a free agent, but there is reason to believe Cunningham won't be on the open market—because he has a legitimate shot to make the final 53-man roster.

Cunningham joins a tight end corps already occupied by two of the Colts' three top selections from last year in Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, but he is superior in some regards to his new teammates.

While both Fleener and Allen are better known for their athleticism and pass-catching ability, Cunningham fills the need for an extremely strong blocking tight end.

That's not to say Cunningham isn't capable of catching the ball himself, because he continues to improve in that area of his game.

Especially as a senior in 2012, the Gamecocks' captain made strides. His most notable snag came at a critical juncture in South Carolina's hard-fought, 17-13 road victory over Vanderbilt in the season opener.

However, the way Cunningham will be able to cash an NFL paycheck in Indianapolis will be largely thanks to his play in the trenches.

As his NFL.com scouting report highlights, the Gamecocks used to deploy Cunningham as a third offensive tackle at times. He can function in that role in either max protection situations or in jumbo packages down near the goal line.

Given his increasingly strong aptitude to catch the ball, the prospective third-string tight end still has to be accounted for in the red zone when slipping off blocks and entering the flat.

Reigning Executive of the Year GM Ryan Grigson made a calculated decision with this seemingly irrelevant pick by selecting Cunningham. Since Cunningham faced the best competition college football has to offer in the Southeastern Conference, the groundwork has been laid for him to thrive in the pros.

Cunningham squared off frequently with NFL-caliber talent in conference play at South Carolina and showcased his aforementioned strengths against those opponents.

The Colts had the same final pick of the draft in 2012, and third-string QB Chandler Harnish still remains on the team. When the dust settles from positional battles ahead of Week 1, don't be surprised if Cunningham is firmly in the fold, too.

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