If Ravens really passed on Tunsil for bong video, they made a mistake
No one had much time to process the information. Not the league. Not its 32 teams. And especially not Laremy Tunsil.
Just minutes into the 2016 NFL Draft, a video posted from Tunsil’s Twitter, a verified account with more than 20,000 followers, showed the Ole Miss offensive tackle smoking marijuana out of a gas mask bong. A players once expected to go No. 1 overall in the draft now faced a free fall due to a hacked social media account.
Tunsil’s best landing spot entering the day, the San Diego Chargers, decided to take Ohio State’s Joey Bosa with the third pick. The Dallas Cowboys never had much interest in Tunsil, and selected Ezekiel Elliott at four. With Jalen Ramsey still on the board, the choice became a no-brainer for the Jacksonville Jaguars. That left the Baltimore Ravens, holding the sixth pick, to take their potential franchise blindside protector next.
And so they did, though the name on the draft card read “Ronnie Stanley,” not “Laremy Tunsil.”
At first, many speculated that the Ravens simply preferred the Notre Dame offensive tackle. However, it soon surfaced that the team actually removed Tunsil from their draft board after viewing the video. In essence, a front office that dug into the player’s background over the course of months and likely knew that he passed two years’ worth of drug tests decided that they still didn’t know enough to bring him aboard.
Of course, Baltimore head coach John Harbaugh claims that Stanley ranked ahead of Tunsil even before the video surfaced, though teams would never admit to the contrary. Given the preponderance of the evidence, it seems far more likely that the team decided in the moment to take Tunsil out of consideration.
If the Ravens did, they made a rather glaring mistake.
The error exists independent of whether Tunsil has a better career than Stanley. Either the Ravens knew that Tunsil smoked marijuana at some point in his life and decided it didn’t matter until the public found out, or they failed to perform their due diligence in researching his background. Especially in light of the fiasco that surrounded Ray Rice in 2014, Baltimore needed to make a stronger and smarter effort with how they vet potential additions. By making a snap decision on Tunsil during the draft, they revealed that their process still requires an overhaul.
And given that Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens’ front office ranks among the league’s best at identifying a player’s on-field ability, they likely allowed a superior player at a targeted position to fall past their pick for a rather nebulous reason. If Tunsil develops into one of the league’s best offensive linemen, the decision to pass could haunt Baltimore for years.
Ultimately, if Stanley becomes a fixture at left tackle and Tunsil falls short of expectation, the fans and media will forget how Ozzie Newsome and the Ravens panicked on draft day. That doesn’t mean they should, however. The team and the NFL collectively need to make strides in this area, especially as the public allows for fewer mistakes to fall through the cracks.
Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning sports journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. He has bylines at SB Nation, Sports on Earth, and other outlets. He also serves as the senior writer and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.