This time last week, Laremy Tunsil was an absolute lock to become the second ever Ole Miss prospect taken with the No. 1 selection of the NFL Draft. Then in blundered the Rams with their balls-to-the-wall trade gambit, enticing the Titans off the top spot with a briefcase stuffed with picks. Los Angeles will use that newly-acquired top selection on a quarterback. The only drama is which one: North Dakota State's Carson Wentz or Cal's Jared Goff.
But Tunsil is at risk of losing more than the No. 1 spot. With just one team in the top five having a true need at offensive tackle (the Chargers at No. 3, and even they have more pressing needs), there's a very real scenario in which Tunsil's mini-slide takes him down to No. 6—a descent that, based on last year's rookie contracts, could cost him roughly $8.6 million.
Lets run through the scenarios.
Pick 2: The Browns will probably take a QB or trade to someone who will.
UPDATE: Of course right after this post published, the Browns confirmed a trade with the Eagles. Philly will most definitely go with a quarterback, so Tunsil just dropped to at least No. 3.
Cleveland's new, analytics-driven front office (which recently hired sabermetrics guru Paul DePodesta, the basis for Jonah Hill's character in Moneyball) no doubt prefers the Belichickian strategy of trading down for more picks—indeed, Adam Schefter reported on Tuesday that the Browns are in talks with several teams to do just that. The problem is that whoever ends up trading into the No. 2 spot will likely do so with the intent of drafting whatever quarterback doesn't end up in Los Angeles. Cleveland's most likely trade partner is Philadelphia, which, desperate for a franchise passer, tried vainly to make a deal with the Titans for No. 1.
If the Browns do end up staying pat (it's possible their asking price for the second pick is just too high), it makes a lot of sense to grab the leftover quarterback themselves. Though Schefter did recently say he doesn't think the Browns want to go QB that high, the alternative is sailing into 2016 on the rickety flotsam of Josh McCown and RGIII.
Either way, the Browns picking Tunsil seems unlikely with All-Pro Joe Thomas holding down the blind side in Cleveland. There's a chance the Browns trade the 31-year-old (who considered asking to be dealt back in January) and replace him with Tunsil, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Pick 3: San Diego could use a tackle, but might prefer instant gratification on defense.
There's a good chance Tunsil comes off the board here. Current Chargers left tackle King Dunlap is on the wrong side of 30 and battled injuries last season. A lot of mock drafts, including the latest from Mel Kiper, Jr. and SB Nation, have Tunsil headed to San Diego.
But the Chargers might be content with Dunlap, who's been a good player when healthy. They had the opportunity to release him free of charge at the turn of the current league year, but opted instead to restructure his contract. They also just locked in starting right tackle Joe Barksdale to a four-year, $23.5 million deal and re-signed swing tackle Chris Hairston. In other words, they don't have a pressing need at offensive tackle. Tunsil could be a decade-long starter at a key position, but with the Philip Rivers window closing, the Chargers will be tempted to fill immediate needs instead of addressing long-term solutions.
Which is why they may opt to go with a defensive prospect like Jalen Ramsey or DeForest Buckner. Even with Dunlap's injury problems, the Chargers ranked eighth in passing DVOA and fourth in passing yards per game last season. Meanwhile, they were 28th in defensive DVOA and 21st in scoring defense.
It's also possible that San Diego trades this pick to someone who wants to jump up and grab Tunsil. Ian Rapoport tweeted Tuesday that the Chargers were in contact with multiple teams, but that talk might die down now that the Eagles are take the second quarterback off the board at No. 2.
Picks 4 and 5: Dallas and Jacksonville aren't in the market.
The Cowboys' O-line is already loaded. The Jags spent the No. 2 pick on Luke Joeckel just three years ago and, with Joeckel struggling, gave Kelvin Beachum $4.5 million guaranteed in the latest round of free agency (a deal that includes a four-year, $40 million option).
Pick 6: Baltimore is the safety net.
If the first five teams really do pass on Tunsil, you have to think his fall stops here. Current starter Eugene Monroe has missed 16 games due to injury since signing a five-year, $37.5 million contract (including $17.5 guaranteed) three years ago. The Ravens would save $2.1 million in cap space if they traded or cut Monroe before June 1st, though they'd have to shoulder $6.6 million in dead money.
Ravens blog Baltimore Beatdown explains why trading Monroe makes sense:
An even bigger advantage of the contract is that it is essentially pay-as-you-go. With no guaranteed money left in any of the last 3 years, a team could acquire him and play it year to year. If Monroe plays well for them in 2016, they have him under contract for the next 2 seasons at reasonable salaries of $6.75 million in 2017 and 2018, with the ability to cut him at any time with no dead money. While the cap hit is not small, the ability to not be locked in could be very valuable to the right team.
Team owner Steve Bisciotti stepped out on a limb in late March and called Monroe "our starting left tackle going into next year," but head coach John Harbaugh refused to make the same commitment when asked about Monroe the very next day. Having a franchise left tackle slip to him at No. 6 would probably change Bisciotti's mind in a hurry.
Of course, I also insisted that the Titans would stay at No. 1 and draft Tunsil. The NFL Draft is crazy, y'all. In the end, this will come down to how each of these GMs weighs the needs vs. best available conundrum.