Franchise left tackles have recently been one of the most elusive positions in the NFL Draft. Try as they may, NFL teams have had a tough go at projecting the position to the NFL. Recent selections of Greg Robinson, Matt Kalil, and Luke Joeckel not reaching their draft day investments have put the position under a microscope like never before.
Considered by many as the draft’s premier left tackle prospect, Laremy Tunsil has both a lot to live up to and a lot to overcome. Tunsil’s reputation as a stonewall to opposing pass rushers was well deserved during his time at Ole Miss. During his final year playing for the Rebels, Tunsil faced some of the best pass rushers in the nation, which included big names in next year’s draft like: Myles Garrett, Arden Key, and even one from this year's class, Emmanuel Ogbah. For the most part, Tunsil won those matchups.
Even with a vetted reputation, Tunsil still has to answer whether or not he’s the one to buck the trend when it comes highly touted left tackles. Is he the player everyone expects him to be, or is there cause for concern?
Laremy Tunsil | OL | Ole Miss
Tale of the tape:
Weight: 310 lbs.
Arm: 34 ¼”
Vert: 28 ½”
Bench: 34 reps
While some tackle prospects are touted for their freakish length or imposing size, Tunsil is instead a more modest and balanced athlete. The biggest advantage he draws from his well-proportioned frame is in his ability to mirror opponents. Against speed rushers like the previously mentioned Arden Key from the LSU, Tunsil showed an uncanny ability to cut off a pass rushers most efficient route to the quarterback.
Tunsil’s spatial awareness is what makes him a special technician. He very rarely gets out of position and is always in a good place to deal with counters. It’s Tunsil’s discipline which makes pass rushers predictable against him.
All that athleticism isn’t worth much in the NFL if he doesn’t have the strength to match - which bore out with his impressive 34 bench press reps of 225 at Ole Miss’ pro day. From linebackers to defensive ends, Tunsil consistently outclassed defenders when he got his hands on them. Those 10” mits on the end of his 34” arms were like the head of a medieval mace. Not only were his hands quick and active, but his initial punch stunned rushers at the point of attack.
The totality of Tunsil’s appeal comes from a cocktail of being a good athlete at the position and being well coached. In college, pass rushers had to draw out every move in their bags of tricks to beat him, and more often than not it wasn’t enough.
In college, there weren’t a lot of defensive ends who gave Tunsil fits. For the most part, Tunsil looked like a pro playing with amateurs. While he did particularly well against the SEC’s speed rushers, there was one play who made him look decidedly collegiate; Auburn’s Carl Lawson.
Like Tunsil, Lawson wins with athleticism, strength, and technique. Lawson was able to take advantage of his incredibly strong upper body and used his strong hands to chop down Tunsil’s arms in pass protection. Lawson was such a problem for Tunsil, he drew two false start penalties against the future first round left tackle.
Although Tunsil is a well-built and balanced athlete, he’s not quite the prototype when it comes to length. When his measurables compare to some of best tackles in the NFL like Tyron Smith, Tunsil’s 34” (literally) come up short. It’s not to say he can’t be successful without disproportionately long arms (Joe Thomas has under 33” arms), but it should be noted as a projected top 10 draft pick.
Additionally, Tunsil doesn’t possess the violent disposition that some teams look for on the offensive line. There were very few instances of Tunsil blocking defenders to the grass. While the tactical advantage of taking defensive lineman to the ground can be arguable, it can help set a favorable tone for the offense.
Unlike in years past, Tunsil projects as a surer thing than the first round tackles before him. He’s not just a road grating people move or a finessing dancing bear, but a well-balanced and well-built blindside protector. Like recently retired former New York Jet, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Tunsil should at least be a highly dependable left tackle for a long time.
Before the Tennessee Titans traded the first overall pick, Tunsil was thought to be the front-runner for the distinction. Although he remains in play to go third overall to San Diego, the Chargers have already invested heavily into the tackle position by paying King Dunlap and Joe Barksdale within the past two years. With the Chargers potentially out of the picture, Tunsil may fall as far as sixth to the Baltimore Ravens and replace Eugene Monroe. Not quite a precipitous draft day fall, but a match made in football heaven for both prospect and program.