The NFL is a passing league, and there’s no doubt that quarterbacks and wide receivers are the stars. But without the men in the trenches, few opportunities would exist for the QBs and WRs. Aidan Curran examines the best offensive lineman in this year’s draft, Laremy Tunsil.
The Tennessee Titans have a potential franchise quarterback in Marcus Mariota, but they must protect him as he is the key to the future success of the franchise. The first overall pick in the 2016 NFL pick provides the Titans with the opportunity to provide the protection Mariota needs in Laremy Tunsil. The Ole Miss product should be more than capable of protecting Mariota’s blind side for years to come.
Tunsil, a 6’5” 310 lb. left tackle, is at the top of many experts’ mock drafts at #1 overall. The former Ole Miss lineman displays an impressive combination of speed and strength that allowed him to dominate SEC pass rushers for three years.
What sets Tunsil apart is his feet and hands. The athletic tackle also has elite lateral agility, and did a good job in Ole Miss’ zone-blocking scheme of using his speed to reach linebackers at the second level. Tunsil is also adept at using his hands to initiate contact with the defender, and his hand placement is superb.
Tunsil’s strength is in pass protection, and it’s not hard to find an example of his elite pass-blocking skills.
On this play against Alabama in 2014, Tunsil is matched up against defensive lineman D.J. Pettway. At the snap, Tunsil explodes out of his stance and mirrors Pettway very well, using quick feet to move with Pettway. Tunsil shows off his hand use and placement by initiating contact with Pettway and getting his hands inside Pettway’s shoulders, which allows him to stop Pettway’s momentum. Tunsil’s technique here is perfect, as he locks out his arms and uses his wide base to stop Pettway from getting pressure. Notice how Tunsil’s shoulders are over his hips when he engages, this is picture-perfect technique from the Ole Miss left tackle.
Against Auburn in 2015, Tunsil showed again why many consider him to be the first overall pick in this year’s draft. On this play, Tunsil drive blocks, and stonewalls the 3 technique defensive tackle while Ole Miss QB Chad Kelly drops back to pass. Again, Tunsil’s technique is immaculate, as he initiates contact with the defensive linemen and drives him back, generating power from his lower body and using his inside hand placement to gain leverage and win the matchup.
One area that Tunsil must improve at the next level is run-blocking. Tunsil showed some inconsistency in his run-blocking and will need to gain strength in his lower body to improve his ability to win these matchups. At Ole Miss, Tunsil’s responsibilities in the ground game were not extraordinary. Tunsil was asked to seal the edge on a lot of plays, and does well in executing seal blocks, but it was when he was asked to win a one-on-one matchup with a defensive lineman that he struggled occasionally.
On this play against Auburn in 2015, Tunsil is slow to explode out of his stance, and allows the defensive tackle to initiate contact, gain leverage, and get into his body, which drives Tunsil straight backwards.
Later in the game, Tunsil is matched up against the Auburn 7 technique right defensive end.
Tunsil does a better job getting out his stance at the snap, and his hand placement is solid as usual. However, Tunsil is unable finish the play by turning his hips and opening up a gap for the running back to run through. The defensive end is able to shed the block and make the tackle on the running back.
While Tunsil allowed the defensive end to make the play, he came back on the next play, executed his block perfectly and opened up a lane for the running back. Seeing Tunsil correct his mistakes so quickly will be something that will appeal to NFL talent evaluators.
He explodes into the defender at the snap and has good leverage, while locking out his arms. The key on this play is his hips. This time, he shows a strong base and smooth hip flexibility in turning the player perpendicular to the play, which opens up a gap for the running back. The icing on the cake here is how Tunsil finishes his block. He keeps blocking the defensive end right up until the whistle blows, and shows a little bit of a mean streak in continuously driving him back even after the play has flowed past him. NFL general managers will love to see aggressive blocking like that.
Tunsil has all of the tools needed to be an elite left tackle in the NFL. A player with the physical traits and pass-blocking ability that Tunsil possesses will do very well at the next level. His hand use and placement is excellent, and his combination of power and agility will allow him to succeed versus NFL pass rushers. Even though he needs to improve the consistency of his run-blocking, and gain some lower body strength, it is still easy to see why this left tackle is mentioned as a possible #1 overall pick.
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Aidan Curran has written about whether Malcolm Butler is for real, the Patriots versatile defensive line and options at offensive tackle, as well as Rex Ryan’s blitzing ways.
All video and images courtesy Draft Breakdown.