Laremy Tunsil Established Himself as Draft's Probable Top Pick at NFL Combine

Luke Easterling@@LukeEasterlingCorrespondent IFebruary 27, 2016

Feb 26, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Ole Miss Rebels offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil (48) participates in workout drills during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Much like a Tana French novel or the meat-like substance in the old school lunch line, the NFL draft is packed full of mystery. This year's installment of the annual player selection meeting is sure to have its own share, but one storyline of the 2016 draft is coming into clear focus at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"With the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the Tennessee Titans select...Laremy Tunsil, offensive tackle, University of Mississippi."

Start preparing yourselves now, Titans fans.

Even before working out at the combine, Tunsil had been lauded for his rare athleticism—even a tertiary look at his college film could prove it. But even though the 6'5", 310-pounder opted out of the 40-yard dash and bench press portion of Friday's activities, he put on a show when it came to on-field positional drills.

Here's Tunsil flying through one of those drills, courtesy of The Rebel Walk:

The Rebel Walk @TheRebelWalk

Laremy Tunsil. Enough said. #HYDR https://t.co/0GkoA1rSpJ

Bleacher Report's own Matt Miller was one of many who were impressed by Tunsil's display of quickness, agility and explosiveness:

Video Play Button
Videos you might like
Matt Miller @nfldraftscout

So, after much controversy, Laremy Tunsil decided to workout and looked amazing doing it. Makes everything look easy!

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport noted team scouts spent plenty of time raving about Tunsil following his performance Friday:

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Heard more gushing about #OleMiss OL Laremy Tunsil than any player today. Scouts have never seen a big man bend like that. Freak athlete

This year's offensive tackle class has its share of impressive prospects, from Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley—who arguably could have been the best at the position in last year's draft—to Indiana's Jason Spriggs, who followed a strong Senior Bowl with an impressive showing in Indy. Throw in Ohio State's Taylor Decker, and there are a handful of players who project as Day 1 starters at left tackle.

But both on tape and during his graceful performance in Friday's gauntlet of drills, Tunsil stands alone above them all.

In 28 career games as Ole Miss' left tackle, Tunsil allowed just two sacks. He was named second-team All-SEC as a true freshman in 2013 and earned first-team honors in each of the following two seasons.

Tunsil's 2015 campaign started only after he served a suspension for receiving impermissible extra benefits. He missed the first seven games of the season but didn't miss a beat once he finally hit the field.

He capped the year by showing off his trademark athleticism in a new way. Tunsil moves like a tight end, and he proved it by rushing for a two-yard touchdown in the Rebels' 48-20 Sugar Bowl win over the Oklahoma State Cowboys.

After wrapping up his performance at the combine, Tunsil told NFL Network he credits his experience as a high school basketball player for helping him develop his athleticism and impressive footwork:

"Playing basketball, you've got to move your feet, or you're going to get embarrassed out there," Tunsil said. "So, I learned how to move my feet in high school when I started playing basketball, and look where I'm at now."

From the Titans' perspective, it's all about getting value and protecting prior investments.

After spending last year's No. 2 overall pick on quarterback Marcus Mariota, there has been plenty of speculation Tennessee would look to deal this year's top selection to a team in search of a franchise signal-caller. But while it's important to have that quarterback in place, it's equally important to keep him protected.

To that end, new general manager Jon Robinson's best course of action could be to keep the selection and use it on Tunsil, plugging him in at left tackle and moving Taylor Lewan—the team's first-round pick in 2014—to the right side. This would give their young quarterback two talented bookends for years to come.

Trading down for more picks always sounds attractive, but without a true consensus on this year's top quarterback, it's unlikely the Titans would be able to command a king's ransom in return for the top spot. Unless they get a ridiculous offer, their best bet is to dig in at No. 1 and take arguably the most impressive athlete in the entire draft—regardless of position.

Titans fans have already taken to Twitter to voice their support for making Tunsil the first pick:

Isaac Burchfield @NothinButtDeath


John Boyle @JohnBoyle2424

@KingTunsil78 Can't wait until the Titans make Laremy Tunsil "The Dancing Bear" our #1 overall selection. Great Combine!!!

Tunsil's road to being this year's top overall selection won't be without its obstacles, especially after his former teammate, Robert Nkemdiche, told reporters Friday that Tunsil was present the night of his fall from a hotel room window, an incident that led to an arrest and suspension for the Ole Miss defensive lineman. But barring the finding of any wrongdoing on his part, Tunsil has made the strongest case for the Titans to keep the No. 1 overall pick and spend it on a new blind-side protector for Mariota.

Luke Easterling is a featured columnist who covers the NFL draft for Bleacher Report. He also covers the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Scout. Follow him on Twitter @LukeEasterling.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.