Laremy Tunsil's Fall Fills a Major Need for the Miami Dolphins
One man's unfortunate tweet is another franchise's NFL draft bargain. With Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil tumbling down the draft board to the Miami Dolphins at 13th overall, the Dolphins found themselves a bargain who can help from the start.
Tunsil may have immense off-the-field concerns, but there was a reason he was being tied to the first overall pick only a few weeks ago. Dude seems like he can ball, and the Dolphins will certainly take that at a position where they needed more than just a little help.
We can evaluate this need using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP). This is the metric we use to evaluate the efficiency of both teams and players with the team metrics being adjusted based on strength of opponent.
Here's how NEP works. Prior to each play, there is an expected number of points a team will score on its current drive. A positive play -- such as a three-yard rush on 3rd and 2 -- will increase that and give the team or player positive NEP. But if that same three-yard rush came on 3rd and 4, the team's expected points for the drive would clearly go down, resulting in negative NEP. Tracking these fluctuations in NEP over the course of a season can tell us which teams and players were operating most efficiently.
Tunsil needed a team to take a risk, and the Dolphins needed a man to protect Ryan Tannehill. If Tunsil can clear up his red flags, this could end up being a beautiful relationship.
Premier Player at a Premier Position
It's easy to see why teams would zero in on Tunsil as being one of the top tackles in the draft when you peep his pro-day results. He pumped out 34 reps on the bench press, posted a broad jump of 9'3", and jumped 28 1/2" in the vertical. Sixth overall pick Ronnie Stanley had the same vertical, but he fell short on the bench with only 24 reps. Michigan State's Jack Conklin pushed out 25 reps on the bench with a 8'7" broad jump at the combine, and Kansas State's Cody Whitehair did 16 reps with a 9'2" broad jump. In terms of measurables, not many of the top prospects could hang with Tunsil.
Beyond Tunsil himself, it has seemed prudent to spend heavy draft capital on offensive linemen. From 2001 to 2015, there were 80 different offensive linemen taken in the first round. The teams that drafted those players saw their Adjusted Passing NEP per drop back increase an average of 0.037 in the first season, and the Adjusted Rushing NEP per carry increased 0.027. All of these numbers were amplified when the team took the player as high as the Dolphins took Tunsil. If you're looking for rapid improvement, it's hard to argue with drafting a big man early on.
All of that's discussing Tunsil as a blocker. But that's not all he can add to a team's passing game.
That's game, set, and match, home slice.
Tunsil's measurables and position make him appear to be a quality selection for the Dolphins who could contribute right away. A look at their NEP marks from last season shows why this move was necessary.
A Glaring Need Up Front
When we view Passing NEP, that includes the expected points lost on sacks over the course of the season. That was bad news for ol' boy Ryan Tannehill.
There were 43 quarterbacks who had at least 100 drop backs with a single team last year, but only three lost more expected points on sacks per drop back than Tannehill. It took what would have been a mediocre efficiency season for the Dolphins' signal caller and turned it into a nightmare.
Among those 43 quarterbacks, Tannehill was 32nd in Passing NEP per drop back, a number that includes the expected points he lost on sacks. When we omit the sacks for all passers and look at what they did just when they got rid of the ball, Tannehill slides all the way up to 19th. That was the second largest jump for any quarterback, trailing only the Tennessee Titans' Marcus Mariota. Rumor has it Tannehill is currently spending his signing bonus on a crew to keep Tunsil out of trouble in South Beach because this team needs him.
Tunsil should also provide a boost for Jay Ajayi and company in the backfield. They finished last year ranked 21st in Adjusted Rushing NEP per play overall. The sore spot was when the team rushed left as they slipped to 23rd in Success Rate, which measures the percentage of plays on which a team racks up positive NEP. They do have Branden Albert on the roster, but that doesn't mean they couldn't use some improvements on the left side.
No matter what category we look at, this seems to be a major box checked for the Dolphins. They needed a big body up front to help both the passing game and the ground game, and Tunsil fell right into their lap. That sounds like a dandy of an evening down south.
Tunsil's poor judgment may end up being a major boon for the Dolphins. If it weren't for a mis-timed tweet and some alleged bad decisions, Tunsil likely wouldn't have been on the board at 13th overall, but you can bet the Dolphins were pleased as punch that he was.
Tunsil's measurables stack up well with -- and largely beyond -- those of the other tackles taken before him and rated directly after him in the draft. The drop in draft stock seemed to be more based on his red flags than his talent, and those shouldn't dampen his impact in Miami as long as he can stay on the field.
He also happens to fill a major hole for the Dolphins, possibly the biggest that they had. Tannehill's efficiency took a major dip last year because of his struggles with staying upright, but things weren't as grim when he was able to throw the football. If Tunsil can help wipe out the former, Tannehill could get back on track toward the progression he had showed in the past.
We can never know whether or not players with the red flags that Tunsil possesses will end up being draft-day bargains or busts. But what we do know is that Tunsil was generating significant hype for his play on the field at Ole Miss. When you add that to the Dolphins' need to improve on the offensive line, it's easy to see why they were willing to overlook the downsides of the pick.