Micale Cunningham, Louisville QB | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Micale Cunningham scouting report -- Does the Louisville QB have pro-potential as a sleeper quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft class?

Early in the 2020 college football season, I wrote an article for Pro Football Network about Louisville quarterback Micale Cunningham as a sleeper in the NFL Draft. Fast forward a year, and Cunningham’s name is still largely absent from potential prospects at the position. Is the industry still sleeping on Lamar Jackson’s successor at Louisville? Does Cunningham’s scouting report reveal pro-potential or just another dynamic college player?

Micale Cunningham NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Quarterback
  • School: Louisville
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height: 6’1″
  • Weight: 200 pounds

Micale Cunningham Scouting Report

As the quarterback position evolves in the NFL, teams are infatuated with players who can create plays out of structure. The Michael Vicks, Russell Wilsons, and Lamar Jacksons are becoming the norm compared to traditional pocket passers like Tom Brady. While there is still a demand for a QB who can stand in the pocket, hang tough, and make a play, mobility is becoming an increasingly valuable ability. 

This seems like an excellent place to start Cunningham’s scouting report. Like his predecessor, the Louisville QB is a dynamic playmaker with his legs. He has genuine speed, allowing him to get around the edge and extend plays.

The redshirt senior also demonstrates other athletic attributes. He can employ juke moves and dead legs to help confuse defenders and extend plays. He’s twitchy in his movements, displaying a good change-of-direction ability. In addition to allowing him to excel in the open field, Cunningham uses his athleticism to evade pressure in the pocket.

Louisville utilizes this aspect of his game with a high volume of play-action passes and rollouts. Cunningham excels in this area, routinely throwing well on the run. He does an excellent job of keeping his eyes downfield while on the move. Some of his best throws are made while operating outside the pocket. 

That’s not to say he can’t make throws in the pocket. There were some impressive examples on film of him putting the ball into the deep third, usually intended for Tutu Atwell. He’s demonstrated that he can throw the ball with decent placement in the short and intermediate levels of the field and that he can throw with anticipation.

Finally, Cunningham shows competitive toughness and leadership as an NFL Draft prospect. 

Areas for improvement

While Cunningham has some desirable areas in his scouting report, there are several areas for improvement if the Louisville QB is to be considered an NFL Draft prospect. 

The main area is his decision-making. In the games studied, there were some seriously head-scratching plays. On more than one occasion, Cunningham threw the ball directly to an opposing player with no Louisville receiver remotely in attendance. The Cardinals QB was lucky not to have more interceptions added to the 12 he racked up last fall. 

Decision-making issues are also apparent with his pocket awareness. There were too many times where he didn’t feel pressure in the pocket. That can be understandable from the blindside, but when a player is coming at you head-on, you should be able to see that and act accordingly. 

Cunningham has demonstrated the ability to maneuver the pocket with his athleticism. Yet, his vision as a runner leaves a little to be desired. There were multiple examples of him running straight into pressure.

Finally, while the Louisville QB shows the ability to get the ball to the deep third, he doesn’t have a powerful arm. There were some examples of him putting a little zip on the ball. Nevertheless, those tend to be on the move where he can use his legs to add extra power behind the throw. 

Micale Cunningham Player Profile

While Cunningham currently slides under the radar in the 2022 NFL Draft class, he was a well-regarded and sought-after high school prospect. The three-star quarterback from Montgomery, Alabama, received 12 offers. Those suitors for his signature included SEC programs like Georgia, LSU, and Kentucky. Although they never extended an offer, Alabama also expressed interest in the dynamic athlete.

The interest was hardly surprising. The epitome of a dual-threat quarterback, Cunningham was an offensive weapon for Park Crossing High School. During his career as a starter, he threw for 6,276 yards and 71 touchdowns. Meanwhile, he added 1,926 yards and 32 scores on the ground.

Most of Cunningham’s production came from a senior season where he led Park Crossing to a 13-1 record and a state semifinal. In addition to attracting the attention of college football programs, he was named the Public School Player of the Year and a first-team All-State honoree. Furthermore, he was invited to the Offense-Defense All-American game.

Despite the attention, the quarterback never wavered from his spring commitment to Louisville. Cunningham was drawn to the scheme and direction of the Cardinals, telling reporters, “I feel like it’s going to be the best for me. I love the offense. I think they’ve got big things planned.”

Cunningham’s career at Louisville

Louisville provided the perfect breeding ground for a young dual-threat quarterback. Jackson had earned the Heisman Trophy in 2016 for his ground-breaking dual-threat performances, and Cunningham had the opportunity to sit and learn behind the soon-to-be NFL Draft first-rounder during the 2017 season.

Although Jawon Pass was the starter for the beginning of the season, the Lousiville offense was lackluster under his leadership. Level at the half against FCS Indiana State, Cunningham came off the bench to lead four scoring drives, including his first-ever touchdown run.

Despite this, he remained under-utilized as a passer in his redshirt freshman season. The Lousiville QB made just 67 passing attempts, completing 59.7% for 473 yards. However, Cunningham demonstrated his dynamic ability on the ground with a team-leading 497 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns.

Cunningham grabs the Louisville QB1 spot in 2019

An injury sustained to Pass during an uninspiring Louisville performance against Notre Dame allowed Cunningham to lead the offense. The redshirt sophomore grabbed it with both hands and legs, locking down the starter job even upon Pass’ return from injury.

While his ability on the ground remained evident, Cunningham also flashed potential as a passer. While 2,061 passing yards seems meager by college standards, he averaged 12.8 yards per attempt. In a win over Syracuse, he became the first Louisville QB since Jackson’s Heisman campaign to throw for 5 touchdowns, earning ACC and Manning Award QB of the Week honors. Moreover, he set the program record for passer efficiency during the 2019 season.

While Louisville’s 4-7 record fell far from expectation, Cunningham produced some personal highlights. With 343 passing yards against Western Kentucky and 307 yards against Miami, he became the first Louisville QB since Jackson in 2017 to post consecutive 300-yard games. He’d add another with a career-high 350-yard performance against Virginia Tech. The following week, his 197 rushing yards were not only a career-best but the most by any quarterback in the ACC.

Heading into a pivotal season for both program and passer, Cunningham is second in Louisville history for rushing touchdowns. He’s the only passer in program history to have 4 touchdown passes for 75 yards or more.

There’s no doubting his ability to create magic and exciting plays. Nonetheless, the jury is still out over Cunningham’s NFL Draft potential. At present, a Day 3 selection in the NFL Draft would be the best-case scenario for the Louisville QB. 

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter @ojhodgkinson.

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