As draft season enters the home stretch, there will be endless debate regarding the first name we'll hear NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell call on April 28.
On Monday, one youngster did his best to end that debate, and after an excellent showing at the Ole Miss pro day, the smart money says that when the Tennessee Titans hand in the first pick, the name on the card will be Laremy Tunsil.
That being said, it isn't as if the 6'5", 310-pounder had ground to make up at the Ole Miss pro day. After shining at February's NFL Scouting Combine, Tunsil was widely rumored to be this year's No. 1 overall pick. He's the top-ranked overall prospect, according to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, who likened Tunsil to Trent Williams of the Washington Redskins:
On the field, Tunsil is a nimble big man with a rare athletic skill-set for the position, showing above average balance and flexibility to easily bend, handle speed and absorb power at the point of attack. He's not a perfect player, but his flaws are more nitpicking than true weaknesses and potential injuries are the only obstacles keeping Tunsil from being one of the better left tackles at the next level.
Bleacher Report's NFL draft lead writer, Matt Miller, ranked Tunsil fourth overall on his latest big board and sees some Tyron Smith (Dallas Cowboys) in Tunsil's game:
Those comparisons to a pair of Pro Bowl linemen came before Tunsil even took to the practice field on Monday.
And when he did, Tunsil did nothing to dissuade those comparisons.
First, Tunsil showed off his strength by banging out an eye-popping 34 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press:
As Ian Rapoport of NFL Network tweeted, for at least some of the scouts in attendance, it wasn't just the number of reps Tunsil did. It was how he did them:
Just as in Indianapolis, Tunsil elected not to run the 40 on Monday, citing a sore hamstring, per Brugler. Of course, the number of people who care about a left tackle's 40 time is exactly zero, so it wasn't a big deal.
Tunsil did, however, participate in positional drills. And that was most assuredly a big deal:
Tunsil displayed footwork and fluidity of motion that are easily the best among offensive linemen this year. Maybe in several years.
As ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky reported, it was a showing that had Titans general manager Jon Robinson slathering on the praise:
He’s long, he can cut grass with his feet ... he’s strong. You can see him block a lot of good football players. He’s a tough guy, he’s a big man, he’s hard to get around. He can really run. You can see him out on some of those space plays when he pulls and runs out on the screen game or he’s working to get a safety when a running back breaks a long run. It’s easy to evaluate how athletic he is.
Now, lest we get swept away in a Laremy lovefest, it isn't all sunshine and puppies with the big man. And this quip from NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock points to why:
Tunsil carries some durability concerns. There was a knee sprain at Ole Miss. A torn bicep. A broken leg and a dislocated ankle. Tunsil didn't miss a ton of time due to these injuries, but that is only because he had a knack for going down late in the season.
There were also off-field issues. Tunsil was charged with domestic violence after an altercation with his father in June 2015 (case was later dismissed). He allegedly was in the hotel room with teammate Robert Nkemdiche when the latter drunkenly stumbled off a balcony. And Tunsil drew a seven-game vacation from the NCAA last season for receiving impermissible benefits.
However, veteran Ole Miss beat reporter Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal told John Glennon of the Tennessean that he doesn't believe Tunsil will be a problem for the team that drafts him:
I don’t really see huge personality issues with Laremy. I don’t know how important an NCAA investigation is to the NFL. I know the NFL will look at (the NCAA investigation) and peel back the layers. But my impressions of (Tunsil) were that he’s a stand-up guy. I think he’s a guy that will put in the work.
Tunsil, for his part, didn't shy away from his missteps (or his time as a scout-team defensive end while sitting out) when he spoke with Robert Klemko of The MMQB.
“It was an unfortunate situation and I learned from it," Tunsil said. "It was tough to get motivated with all that going on but I wanted to make the team better any way I could.”
Given the high pick Tunsil is sure to command (and the millions of dollars that go with it), it's a safe bet that a number of teams, including the Titans, have performed medical and background checks.
And operating under the assumptions that those checks came back satisfactorily and that the Titans will not trade down at the end of next month, Monday's workout hammered home one point:
Tunsil should be the guy.
Let's be clear: This isn't 2013, when the Kansas City Chiefs had to talk themselves into drafting Central Michigan's Eric Fisher first overall. There's no doubt Tunsil is the best lineman in this class. As Lance Zierlein of NFL.com wrote, "From a talent and technique standpoint, Tunsil is easily the cleanest offensive lineman in the 2016 draft and might be the cleanest prospect period."
Given that, it's an easy call for the Titans. The team drafted the player it hopes will be its franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota a year ago. And while Taylor Lewan has shown to be a capable young tackle, ranking 14th at the position in 2015, per Pro Football Focus, he did allow eight sacks in 2015.
Only three tackles allowed more.
If Lewan has one glaring weakness, it's that he isn't fleet of foot. He wins with power and technique, not with quickness. On the left side, that can be a problem.
That weakness is Tunsil's strength, and in pairing the two (with Lewan flipping to the right side), the Titans could provide Mariota with a pair of tackles who could keep the young signal-caller clean for years.
It might not be the sexiest pick in the land, but it's a sensible one. The smart choice.
And in wowing scouts Monday in Oxford, Mississippi, Tunsil made the choice that much easier for the Titans.
Gary Davenport is an NFL analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPSharks.