If Laremy Tunsil was a prohibitive lock to be the NFL draft’s top pick, currently held by the Tennessee Titans, maybe I could rationalize his lack of participation in the NFL Scouting Combine’s bench press drill.
But the Ole Miss star is far from a sure bet to go No. 1. Heck, he’s not even a cinch to be the first offensive tackle off the board on April 28 — that distinction could go to Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley — making Tunsil’s bench-press rejection all the more baffling.
(The NFL Network reports that Tunsil also won’t run the 40-yard dash on Friday.)
To clarify, if Tunsil — a virtual doppelganger to Hall of Famer Walter Jones (four-time All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowler) — has an undisclosed injury, then I take back the above critique. But maladies aside, there’s really no excuse for shunning one of the NFL combine’s most elementary tasks:
Lying down on a firm surface … and pushing forward.
Is Tunsil saving all his workout bullets for the Ole Miss Pro Day? Is he only planning to conduct private workouts for the clubs drafting in the top five? Is his representation that fearful of a bad workout? And what constitutes a bad bench press anyway … 15 reps? Twenty? Twenty-five?
For what it’s worth, Iowa’s Brandon Scherff, the highest-drafted offensive tackle in 2015, produced 22 reps at last year’s combine.
Laremy Tunsil is the only offensive tackle in this draft class to have 224 or more pass blocks and not allow a sack or hit in 2015
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 24, 2016
Tunsil (6-foot-5, 315 pounds) will undoubtedly be a Day 1 consideration for the Titans, Browns and Chargers, the clubs holding the first three picks.
With Tennessee, the addition of Tunsil (quick feet, powerful body, supreme balance) would presumably move Taylor Lewan to right tackle. Within that hypothetical, second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota (2,818 yards passing, 21 total TDs as a rookie) would have two first-round tackles as bookend blockers.
With Cleveland, Tunsil would likely start his career at right tackle, at least until the club found a blockbuster-trade partner for left tackle Joe Thomas (six-time All-Pro, nine-time Pro Bowler). Of course, the Browns are expected to select a passer at the No. 2 spot, adding another layer to their endless search for a franchise quarterback.
And with San Diego, Tunsil would become the primary protector for quarterback Philip Rivers, who has Hall of Fame numbers (41,447 yards passing, 281 TDs) … but desperately needs a Super Bowl appearance on his resume.
Speaking of desperation, the Chargers might covet Tunsil more than any other team. San Diego’s offensive line was ravaged by injuries last season … and second-year tailback Melvin Gordon (first-round pick) needs blocking help to reach his 1,500-yard potential.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and FOX Sports.