INDIANAPOLIS - There's a popular Internet sentiment that has Laremy Tunsil going with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, and behind-the-scenes buzz at the league's scouting combine has done nothing to weaken that thought.
Tunsil, a blind-side protector at left tackle, was suspended for more than half of his final season at Ole Miss, but his impact in the final six games was dramatic.
It certainly hasn't been lost on NFL executives, but the club that will kick things off at the draft in Chicago on April 28 is giving no clues to its intentions. The Tennessee Titans enter this process with a general manager, Jon Robinson, who was just hired in January.
"Having the No. 1 overall pick gives us options," Robinson said. "We certainly don't want to be in this position next year, but would like to capitalize on (this pick) and try to make an impact on the roster, whether we pick an impact player or whether we acquire more picks via trade."
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Robinson wasn't around last year when the Titans had the No. 2 overall pick and chose Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
Mariota played in 12 games and amassed 2,2818 yards with 19 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a passer rating of 91.5.
Conventional wisdom says the Titans will want to invest this year in a left tackle to enhance the life expectancy of last year's investment. According to NFL numbers Tunsil is the highest-rated player at the combine with a 7.7 draft grade.
Tunsil says being draft No. 1 would fulfil a goal he's had since childhood, and he has a clear message for the Titans.
'I will tell them, 'Hey I've got great feet, man. I'm here to protect Mariota. I will put it all on the line. I will give them everything I can to protect Mariota."
Robinson offered few specifics of the Titans' plans, but the Tunsil question did not catch him off guard.
"He's played a lot of football in the SEC. He's a good athlete. He's blocked a lot of good football players," Robinson said. "Again, I haven't met him yet. I'm looking forward to meeting him and getting to know him a little bit."
It's a lengthy path from "getting to know" and signing a deal. Tunsil says he would happily play for anyone who drafts him. Unless they trade only the Titans can draft him No. 1 overall.
"They're a pretty good franchise, man. They had a little down season. Hopefully they draft me, and I can help them win games. I think I'm a hard worker, a humble guy. I'm low key, don't do much man," he said.
Though Mariota was sacked 38 times in 12 games Robinson expressed confidence in the Titans' current left tackle Taylor Lewan, a Michigan product who just completed his second NFL season. Not all the sacks belonged to Lewan.
"Taylor is a good football player, a tough, smart football player. Right now Taylor Lewan is our left tackle, and we're proud that he is our left tackle," Robinson said.