We’ve seen it before. The first round slide has become a staple of draft night. It happened to Aaron Rodgers in 2005 and again in 2014 with Johnny Manziel. Those can be explained. Quarterback wasn’t a need for many teams in 2005 while Manziel’s short stature and reckless off-field behavior made him a shaky prospect.
But Laremy Tunsil’s slide was something we hadn’t seen before. Tunsil was at one time positioned to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft. Even after the Rams and Eagles traded up for quarterbacks, Tunsil was still a lock to go in the top six. All it took for Tunsil to go from a sure thing to an untouchable super-germ was one tweet and two Instagram posts. After that, no team was brave enough to pick him until the Dolphins at No. 13.
You’ve all seen the video by now—Tunsil smokes pot from a bong while wearing a gas mask. You’ve probably seen the text messages too—Tunsil asks Ole Miss assistant athletic director John Miller for money to help pay his rent and his mom’s electric bill. Should Tunsil have done these things? Probably not. But that shouldn’t matter. None of this should have leaked. Tunsil’s social media accounts were hacked and his privacy was violated.
The Ravens, who ended up taking Notre Dame left tackle Ronnie Stanley with the No. 6 pick, admitted they would have chosen Tunsil if the video hadn’t surfaced. Let’s do the math. If we look at the NFL’s rookie wage scale, Tunsil’s contract should net him somewhere around $12.5 million. Stanley is projected to earn $20.5 million. That’s $8 million that could have been in Tunsil’s pocket.
Tunsil did something stupid in college. Join the club. Unfortunately for Tunsil, his mistake was posted all over the Internet for everyone to see. We saw this happen in 2014 when hundreds of celebrity photos including many that contained nudity were released in the infamous iCloud Leaks. It’s hard not to be paranoid when everything you say or do could potentially go viral. Thursday proved once again the power of social media, for better or worse.
There will be legal ramifications if and when Tunsil’s hacker is caught. Per the 1986 “Stored Communications Act,” whoever hacked Tunsil’s Twitter and Instagram accounts (it may not have been the same person) could be subject to a five-year jail sentence. Tunsil would have to prove that the hacker violated his privacy for purposes of “commercial advantage, malicious destruction or damage, or private commercial gain.” Considering how much money Tunsil lost by falling seven spots, he should have a pretty strong case.
Tunsil is still going to make a lot of money and Miami may end up being a better landing spot than Baltimore would have been. But it’s sad that his draft night was tarnished by a vicious Internet attack. NFL Network had a red carpet event leading up to the draft on Thursday night and I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was wonderful, heart-warming television, watching so many players on the cusp of making all their wildest dreams come true. It can be stressful waiting in the green room but draft night is mostly a celebration, a reward for all the hard work and sacrifice that led to this amazing moment. Tunsil didn’t allow a single sack at Ole Miss last year and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he emerged as one of the game’s best young tackles. But that moment on draft night was taken from him and he’ll never have it back.
One piece of good news is that Tunsil won’t be placed in the league’s substance abuse program. While being placed in Stage 1 of the program wouldn’t result in any immediate punishment, it would increase Tunsil’s risk of being fined or suspended if he does fail a drug test at any point. For what it’s worth, Tunsil said the video of him smoking marijuana was from two years ago.
ESPN’s Todd McShay criticized Tunsil for admitting to accepting money from one of his assistant coaches. I thought that was a bit harsh. Tunsil isn’t the first college player to get paid under the table and he won’t be the last. He and the university are both at fault, but would lying about it really have helped the situation? To question Tunsil’s maturity for simply telling the truth seems a little unfair.
My question is, where was Tunsil’s agent when reporters were bombarding him with tough questions on Thursday night? It was odd to see Tunsil up there, fending for himself without an agent or some kind of representation close by. As if Tunsil hadn’t already been through enough in his first 24 hours in the NFL, his introductory press conference with the Dolphins on Friday was delayed because of an allergic reaction. Let’s hope the next several years of Tunsil’s career are much kinder than this first week was.
More Draft Thoughts
I think we can all agree the clear winner of the draft was Jacksonville. Florida State CB Jalen Ramsey drew interest from both the Chargers and Cowboys but magically fell into the Jaguars’ lap at No. 5. Cornerback wasn’t necessarily a need for the Jags but they weren’t going to pass up a talent like Ramsey, a two-time All-America selection at Florida State.
On paper, the Jags’ secondary is starting to look dangerous. The team upgraded last offseason by landing former Packer Davon House and this year they added Prince Amukamara and Tashaun Gipson. Those three have combined for 27 career interceptions. It’s not the Legion of Boom, but it’s a start.
The front seven also improved as the Jags were able to poach UCLA linebacker Myles Jack with the No. 36 overall pick. Jack was once destined to go in the top five but his medical recheck in April didn’t go as well as hoped and he spilled the beans that he might need microfracture surgery on his knee at some point. Those risks still exist but at No. 36, the Jags couldn’t have gotten a better value for a player who projects as a future Pro Bowler. Jacksonville will also be gaining Dante Fowler, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Both players should provide a tangible upgrade to a defense that allowed the ninth-most yards in football last season.
One player who benefited from the Laremy Leaks was Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin. When the Titans traded up to No. 8, most thought they were maneuvering for Tunsil. Instead they went with Conklin, who should open the year as Tennessee’s starting right tackle. That’s good news for Taylor Lewan, who said he wouldn’t have been comfortable moving to the right side. That’s probably what would have happened if the Titans had grabbed Tunsil. Improving the offensive line was a priority for Tennessee after allowing a league-worst 54 sacks in 2015.
The Titans made another splash in round two by drafting Alabama running back Derrick Henry with the No. 45 pick. The last two Heisman Trophy winners—Henry and Marcus Mariota—are now on the same roster.
While Henry was a great value at No. 45, the team already traded for DeMarco Murray earlier this offseason. It’s possible the two will coexist but it’s not an ideal pairing for fantasy purposes. We all saw what Murray did last year while sharing the load with Ryan Mathews and Darren Sproles (spoiler: it didn’t work). Murray looked like he was on his last leg in 2015 but maybe a reduced workload will help him stay healthy and perhaps have a better season.
With limited receiving skills and a hulking 247-pound frame, Henry will probably settle in as an early-down enforcer, ceding most of the passing-down work to Murray. Henry’s superior size means he’ll be first in line for goal-line carries, giving him serious touchdown potential in fantasy leagues. Underachievers Bishop Sankey and David Cobb are probably goners now that Henry and Murray have joined forces.
Quick Hits: Monday was the deadline for teams to exercise fifth-year options on first-round picks from 2013. Ziggy Ansah, Alec Ogletree, Tavon Austin, Eric Fisher, Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd all had their options picked up while Luke Joeckel, Chance Warmack, Dee Milliner, E.J. Manuel, Cordarrelle Patterson, Barkevious Mingo, Matt Elam and D.J. Hayden had their options declined … Sam Bradford is still ghosting the Eagles and head coach Doug Pederson said it could affect his job status. "Anybody that’s not in any of the 32 offseason programs is losing valuable time at that club," said Peterson. "So anybody that’s not in the offseason program, yes, would lose the time.” Bradford is sulking because the Eagles traded up to draft his eventual replacement Carson Wentz … The Redskins dumped Chris Culliver on Monday. His fate was sealed as soon as Washington signed Josh Norman … The Bears released Pro Bowl safety Antrel Rolle after the draft. Guard Matt Slauson was also let go … Brian Hoyer was hoping to land a starting job somewhere but instead he settled for a one-year, $2 million contract to be Jay Cutler’s backup in Chicago. Hoyer completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 11 games for Houston last season … Patriots beat writer Kevin Duffy of MassLive suspects the team will look to trade Jimmy Garoppolo next offseason. It makes sense because he’ll be entering the last year of his contract and the team just drafted his potential replacement, NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett … Kevin Faulk made quite a statement when he announced the Patriots’ third-round pick on Friday night. He went to the podium wearing a Tom Brady jersey as a way to protest the quarterback’s four-game suspension, which was covered in last week’s Bump and Run … James Harrison has decided to return for another season. Harrison, who turns 38 on Wednesday, was considering retirement … Part of the fun of joining a new team is getting to pick your number. The Seahawks have decided that No. 24 will be off limits this year. That’s the number Marshawn Lynch wore for six seasons … Third-round pick C.J. Prosise will open OTAs as the Seahawks’ passing down back. Thomas Rawls will handle most of the early-down work … The Lions pulled some serious Jedi mind tricks on Miles Killebrew. The team told Killebrew they weren’t interested before drafting him with the No. 111 overall pick … The Bucs cut Connor Barth on Monday. The move became inevitable when Tampa Bay drafted Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round … Colts owner Jim Irsay said contract talks are going well with Andrew Luck. The team is hoping to have a deal in place by July 4 … Alfred Morris said he doesn’t regret signing with the Cowboys even though the team drafted Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott with the No. 4 overall pick. “This is where I’m supposed to be and I’m excited about the opportunity here and looking forward to it," he said. He’ll open 2016 as the third-string back behind Elliott and Darren McFadden … According to the Miami Herald, the Dolphins “loved” what they saw from Kiko Alonso in voluntary practice last month. The Dolphins acquired Alonso from the Eagles along with Byron Maxwell earlier this offseason … Did you see how many shots Johnny Manziel ordered Thursday night? That’s a lot of Fireball … Last fall, Joey Bosa and his Ohio State teammate Josh Perry shared the cover of Sports Illustrated. Now they’ll be teammates again on the Chargers … One of my favorite stories from this year’s draft involves Auburn tackle Shon Coleman, who went to the Browns at pick No. 76. Coleman missed two years at Auburn while battling leukemia. He watched his name called on Friday night at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis where he underwent 30 months of chemotherapy.