By George Somerville

George continues his trip down memory lane, re-visiting the 2016 NFL Draft and a famous fall from grace from one of the consensus top prospects available:

2016 NFL Draft


In this seasons series of draft articles I have covered some interesting and unexpected moments. But what we all secretly want is a wild draft. Where the experts get it wrong and chaos reigns right from the start. A Drama Draft.

So what happens when the draft gets wild? I mean, isn’t that why we are all glued to the TV come the first pick? The fact that this year we all know that T-Law will be picked first is somewhat anti-climactic. 


What would happen if mere moments before Roger Goodell hits that stage in Cleveland,  Big Trev’s Twitter and Insta are hacked to show photos of Trevor Lawrence seemingly taking drugs and accepting cash from Clemson coaches? I tell you what. Twitter would E.X.P.L.O.D.E.

And as far fetched as that might sound, this is exactly what happened in Chicago in 2016. Obviously Trevor Lawrence was still in High School at this point in his life. But one player, a highly regarded Ole Miss offensive tackle, found himself firmly in the firing line – live on TV for all the world to see his spectacular fall from grace.

Franchise Quarterbacks

2016 NFL Draft
Credit: ESPN.com (USA Today Sports)

But let’s take a step back to see how we got to that first pick in Chicago. Let’s go back to the end of the 2015 NFL season. The Tennessee Titans had finished a rough year, having fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt after a 1-6 start. Interim coach Mike Mularkey didn’t fare much better with the Titans ending the season 2-14, earning the Titans the #1 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

The Titans had no great desire to hold on to the first pick and traded it away to the Los Angeles Rams. The trade was agreed ahead of the draft, the first time the #1 pick had been traded ahead of draft night since 2001. More of the Titans’ traded draft pick later…

Up until this point, Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil was considered the consensus #1 pick in the Draft. However with the Rams trading up and the mysterious events which unfolded 13 minutes prior to the Draft starting, the course of this draft changed dramatically.

In 2016, the Rams were in need of a Quarterback. And with Cal’s Jared Goff and North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz dominating pre draft discussions, draft chatter soon turned to which QB would be selected first.

As it turned out the Rams selected Goff, and Wentz went to the Eagles a pick later. Of course neither team found their franchise quarterback and although both would have relative success with their teams, five years on neither Goff or Wentz will start this 2021 season playing for the teams that drafted them.

Laremy Tunsil

Credit: NFL.com

However, even by this time the Draft was in chaos.

Shortly before the Draft started and sitting in the Green Room in Chicago, Laremy Tunsil had been made aware that his Twitter and Instagram accounts had seemingly been hacked. Both accounts displayed unauthorised photos of Tunsil. Twitter showed a photo of Tunsil wearing a gas mask attached to what looked like a bong. Instagram showed a screenshot of a text from Tunsil requesting money from Ole Miss Assistant Athletic Director John Miller to meet his rent.

It is hard to imagine the scenes in war rooms up and down the country but San Diego, Dallas and Jacksonville passed on Tunsil in quick succession, selecting Joey Bosa, Zeke Elliott and Jalen Ramsey respectively. Tunsil started to fall down draft boards. Arguably, these three teams made the most of their picks as all have gone on to significantly contribute to their teams. Bosa and Elliott are still doing so in Los Angeles and Dallas. Ramsay has since moved on to play with the Rams.

With pick #6 there was no hiding for the Ravens, who desperately needed help on their offensive line. In what was a clear message that they had been spooked by the story that was developing with Tunsil, Baltimore did select an offensive tackle, but rather than go to Mississippi the Ravens went to South Bend to select Ronnie Staley from Notre Dame.

The next team who would look to improve their Offensive line were the original holders of pick #1, the Tennessee Titans. The Titans similarly appeared concerned with Tunsil’s skeletons, and selected offensive tackle Jack Conklin from Michigan State instead.

Tunsil sat in the Green Room stony faced. He would sit uncomfortably for another five picks, when the Miami Dolphins took the plunge and selected him with the 13th overall pick.

Accounting For Character Concerns

2016 NFL Draft
Credit: Associated Press

Recently, the College Chaps had the opportunity to chat to Mike Tannenbaum who was Executive Vice President of Football Operations with the Miami Dolphins at the time of the 2016 Draft. Mike recalls the trade,

“In 2016, the number one player on our board was Laremy Tunsil. And you could have looked at 10,000 Mock Draft’s and you wouldn’t have seen one that had Laremy Tunsil go at #13 to the Miami Dolphins. We had a good Left Tackle at the time, Brendan Albert and Laremy Tunsil is a great person who made a mistake. It played out obviously on a National stage and because of that weird confluence of events we wind up getting a great player and a great person at #13”.

When asked about how a GM or Franchise reacts or copes with rumours abut a players background, personality or fitness Tannenbaum had this to say about his experiences,

“You try to parse out what’s real . You never know. Gosh, there’s so many times – you know, Minkah Fitzpatrick, here was a guy we really wanted in Miami. {But} do you think he’s really going to get there – you speak to his agent, [but] you just don’t know. And everyone else is trying to play the same game. I do think that’s where technology helps a little bit and the ability to synthesise large amounts of data.” 

You can hear the full interview with Mike Tannenbaum here:

But while the Dolphins couldn’t believe their luck and Tunsil was mightily relieved to fall only as far as pick #13, he still needed to answer to the allegations of alleged drug taking and taking money against NCAA rules.

Somewhat unbelievably Tunsil and his advisers thought it remained a good idea to meet the press immediately after his selection. What followed was an uncomfortable near four minutes of press scrutiny before someone managed to rescue Tunsil off the stage. However, in those near four minutes Tunsil confessed to the accepting of money from Ole Miss Athletic Department. When asked by the press if the screenshot of the messages belonged to him, Tunsil said,

Tunsil: “Those are true. Like I said, I made a mistake”

Media:  “so was there an exchange between you and your coach over money?”

Tunsil:  “I have to say yes”.


So who was behind this mystery sabotage? Well, we still don’t know. Tunsil – if he knows – isn’t telling. 

One theory is that a long running feud with his stepfather was the motivation behind the hack. Tunsil had a chequered career discipline-wise at Ole Miss, during which time his stepfather accused Tunsil of accepting benefits from agents. Trying to pre-empt any NCAA decision, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze benched Tunsil for the season opener. However the NCAA reacted swiftly and banned Tunsil for the first seven games of the Ole Miss season.

This violation was one of many that Ole Miss Athletics was accused of and subsequently sanctioned by the NCAA. A set of sanctions so severe that arguably only now has the School started to recover from them.

But back to the draft and what about those Tennessee Titans? Well, the Titans would subsequently enter into a trade with Cleveland, meaning Tennessee would have picks 8, 33, 43, 45, 64, 140, 157, 193, 222 and 253. I’m not going to into how successful each pick was, but suffice to say that the Titans found some draft gems in pick #45 with superstar running back Derrick Henry from Alabama and pick #64 with safety Kevin Byard – arguably one of the best safeties in the League.

Other standout players from this draft are Michael Thomas to the NOLA Saints at pick #47, Tyreek Hill from West Alabama at pick #165 to the Chiefs, and the Dallas Cowboys finding their franchise QB with pick #135 when they selected the unfancied Dak Prescott from the Mississippi State Bulldogs.

All in all this was a fantastic draft. Mostly because of the drama. Well actually all because of the drama. I’m not wishing ill on anyone in a week’s time, but it would be great to have some DRAMA…..

Mock Draft

george somerville

College football writer