OXFORD, Miss. — There are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and Laremy Tunsil going No. 1 overall in the upcoming NFL draft.
That final truth was ostensibly confirmed sometime before lunch on Monday, during the Ole Miss pro day, when the mammoth offensive tackle (6-foot-5, 310 pounds, 34 1/4-inch arm length) posted supreme numbers with two physical categories (28 1/2-inch vertical leap/34 bench-press reps).
For good measure, Tunsil (who didn’t speak with reporters at pro day) then wowed the large cadre of NFL scouts, general managers and coaches with dazzling footwork, explosiveness and flexibility during drill work — an array of moves not typically seen with men the size of polar bears.
Regarding the value of the No. 1 pick, it certainly helps Tunsil’s cause that no team holds sufficient interest in trading up for the selection (currently owned by the Tennessee Titans) — as a means of snagging a quarterback.
Carson Wentz and Jared Goff going 1-2? Maybe in the top seven or eight picks (Wentz to Cleveland? Goff to San Francisco or Philly?) … but certainly not as back-to-back choices right off the bat. It’s just one of those years.
As such, if you were new Titans GM Jon Robinson, where’s the motivation to explore elementary trade-down deals at the top of Round 1 — minus the acquisition of three more high picks, or two extra selections plus one dynamic player from another squad?
After all, the Titans (who conservatively brought 255 staff members to Oxford — kidding) already have a face-of-the-franchise quarterback (former Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota) and enough gusto to move O-tackle Taylor Lewan (No. 11 overall pick in 2014) to the right side — as a means of accommodating Tunsil’s uncanny skill set.
“To me, (drafting Tunsil at the top is) the easiest discussion I could have (with an NFL team),” said Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze, who lured Tunsil to campus in 2013, as an anchor to the most heralded recruiting class in school history (co-starring Robert Nkemdiche and Laquon Treadwell). “I don’t care who you have (at left tackle), I don’t see how you could bypass Laremy Tunsil.”
Freeze soon added, “I don’t know if I’ve seen a guy who can bend and move like that” at left tackle.
Back to the bench press: For a while on Monday, it looked like Tunsil (who missed seven games in 2015, due to an illegal-benefits case) would clear 40 reps, after getting to the high 20s without much resistance. But the Lake City, Fla. native settled for a Herculean 34, which would have tied him for first place — among offensive linemen (along with Arizona State’s Christian Westerman) — at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
“Laremy, he’s a freak,” said Treadwell, soon after producing a pair of 4.6 times in the 40-yard dash.
And as luck would have it, freakish athletes with relatively clean character records typically get rewarded at the top of drafts — especially with the NFL’s premium positions.
“I thought (Tunsil going No. 1 overall) was a possibility when we recruited him,” recalls Freeze of Tunsil’s prep talents from three years ago, namely the super-quick feet. He soon added: “Your best athletic lineman should be left tackle … he’s the one to protect the quarterback.”
Over the last 20 years, just three offensive tackles have gone No. 1 overall in the draft — Orlando Pace in 1997 (Rams), Jake Long in 2008 (Dolphins) and Eric Fisher in 2013 (Chiefs).
Citing the 1997/2008 cases, St. Louis was wise to snag the Hall of Famer Pace (three-time All-Pro) at the top spot.
However, the Dolphins might have avoided years of mediocrity, if they had opted for quarterback Matt Ryan with the No. 1 selection. To be fair, Jake Long (one-time All-Pro, four-time Pro Bowler) enjoyed a rock-solid start to his pro career, but injuries relegated him to backup roles shortly after that.
In hindsight, what would have become of the Dolphins — along with the Patriots’ dynasty — if they had swapped out their first three ’08 choices of Jake Long, Phillip Merling (32nd overall) and quarterback Chad Henne (57th overall) … with Matt Ryan, receiver Jordy Nelson and running back Jamaal Charles (or Matt Forte)?
Ah, the lost of art of hindsight drafting.
There are no such worries with the Tunsil/Tennessee dream connection. For a team that earned the No. 1 pick last year (3-13), the Titans have a scary-good foundation at quarterback (Mariota, backup Zach Mettenberger), running back (2014 rushing champ DeMarco Murray, via trade), receiver (Kendall Wright, Dorial Green-Beckham, Rishard Matthews), tight end (Delanie Walker, Anthony Fasano) and O-tackle (Lewan, Byron Bell).
Which means Tunsil could be the final piece of the Titans’ offensive puzzle, relative to helping the club make a worst-to-first charge in the NFL’s softest division.
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.