Although it is a convenient narrative, the bong video was not the sole reason for Laremy Tunsil’s slide. Plus, notes on John Elway, Sam Bradford's trade request, and the medical side of the draft
While it is unfortunate what happened to Laremy Tunsil on draft night, I do think too much was made of the impact of the bong-smoking video. It certainly fits a convenient narrative that Tunsil’s slide from an upper to a mid-first round selection is due to the video being leaked moments before the start of the draft. However, it is far too simplistic to think that is the sole reason separating him from teams such as the Ravens, who picked another offensive tackle, Ronnie Stanley, with the sixth pick. Were that the case, months of scouting would have been shelved; fans might as well have done the drafting for the teams with knee-jerk reactions.
Tunsil has special skills on the field, but has question marks off it, having served a suspension from Mississippi for NCAA improprieties. The job of NFL scouting staffs is to know as much as they can about top prospects. Do we really think that after months of scouting and microscopic review, a leaked video from a couple years ago changed everything? Please.
Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome—a team executive who is refreshingly honest and not prone to bland corporate speak—said they had Stanley rated higher than Tunsil all along. As to other picks between Nos. 6 and 13, my sense is the general managers would say the same thing about the player they selected.
There has been some speculation that Tunsil could even sue someone for the $7 million lost between the No. 6 and 13 picks. Well, whom would he sue? Not the Ravens, who said they preferred Stanley. The person who hacked his account and leaked the video? Well, assuming Newsome and/or other general managers would blame the video for their passing on Tunsil—which they are not— Tunsil would have to try to collect. Good luck with that.
Beyond management, however, one does have to wonder if any owners were affected by the video. I do not discount the possibility of one of them overruling his scouting staff due to not wanting to deal with the negative brand association.
As for his new team, the Dolphins have hopefully made sure they know all there is to know about Tunsil’s enemies, such as the person leaking the video. Are there more? Is this person going to surface again with some further vindictiveness? Why is this person so angry? Are there more surprises ahead? Time will tell.
Finally, although much was and continues to be made of it, there are thousands of draft-eligible college players wishing that they had dropped as far as Tunsil, the 13th player in the 2016 NFL draft.
The Roman Senator
The first-round selection of Paxton Lynch put an end to the Broncos being the hopeful landing spot for several quarterbacks who are unhappy with their current plight. After losing Brock Osweiler in free agency, team president John Elway has sat back like a Roman senator, giving thumbs-down to quarterbacks brought to him for approval. Ryan Fitzpatrick? No. Colin Kaepernick? Maybe, if he and/or the 49ers would have made the money work. Sam Bradford? Well, the Eagles already owe the $11 million bonus, so the $7 million salary worked, but only for a low-round pick, if that. Fans and media seemed much more concerned about the next Broncos’ quarterback than Elway. Now, Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch will do just fine.
The Lamest of Ducks
Bradford’s request—made through agent Tom Condon—to be traded certainly has drawn a universally negative reaction, usually like this: Shut up Bradford, you’ve made a ton of money and are making $18 million. Start playing better! I get it; no one likes an athlete who has underperformed and complains. However, having been on both sides of the player-team dynamic, I understand his frustration with a no-win future with the Eagles and will take the highly unpopular view of explaining, if not defending, it.
I asked Condon if he or Bradford had asked the Eagles about their draft plans when Bradford re-signed. He said that with $22 million guaranteed, he didn’t think that was an appropriate question. Since signing on March 1, a lot has happened at his position. This was not a situation where a team merely took a first-round quarterback; this was a team mortgaging future assets to trade up to take a quarterback with the second pick in the draft. Bradford is now an expensive placeholder for the face of the franchise in waiting, Carson Wentz.
Bradford will be well compensated; for that there is no sympathy whatsoever. He will make his $18 million—an $11 million signing bonus and $7 million salary—and he also has $4 million of his 2017 salary guaranteed, an offset guarantee that credits back any salary earned by another team to the Eagles up to $4 million. The problem for Bradford (and the Eagles) is that it is not as simple as, Hey Bradford, play well and you keep your job! There is very little he can do to keep the job—perhaps a deep run in the playoffs, if that—and there is a lot he can do to lose it.
How soon in the season do you think there will be calls for the Eagles to get on with the future and put the kid in? Two games? Two interceptions? I get the reaction: the business of football is cold and Bradford has won the financial part of the game. However, none of us would like to see our obvious replacement hired so publicly.
The Eagles seem to be in a no man’s land: they know the growing pains of playing a rookie quarterback (thus the need for Bradford) but they also know that the only way Wentz progresses is for him to play, which he must do sooner rather than later. The longer that Bradford holds the position, the longer the wait for the all-in investment in Wentz to start paying off. The Eagles know that, and Bradford and his agent know that.
Seeing the selections of Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack at the top of the second round reminded me how important the medical side is in player acquisition and development.
On every player’s card in the war room, there are not only all measurables such as height, weight, speed, vertical, etc., but also the medical grade, usually between a 1-4; 1 means the players is completely clean and a 4 means he’s a medical reject. Because players such as Smith and Jack would obviously be on the higher side, some teams may have rejected them outright. But it only takes one, and they found the Cowboys and Jaguars, respectively.
Jack may need microfracture surgery down the line, but some coaches and management don’t worry about down the line. I remember coaches and management asking questions to our medical staff such as, “Doc, can we get one contract (four years) out of him?” For many decision-makers, if the talent merits, no need for a long view: a short-term asset will do.
As to Smith, I have some personal bias. He was a client of the late Eugene Parker, a giant in the agent business—both Parker and Smith are from Fort Wayne, Ind.—and I sat directly behind Smith at Parker’s funeral and found him to be a genuine and nice young man. In January, against doctor’s orders, Parker flew to the Fiesta Bowl to watch Smith play (he ended up injuring his knee in the game). Parker was too sick to actually attend the game, but sat in his Phoenix hotel room watching Smith’s unfortunate injury. What a blessing for Parker’s work for the Cowboys to take Smith early in the second round; Eugene must be smiling from above.
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