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Floridians set to make big impact on NFL draft

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Next Thursday a few Floridians will hear their names called when the NFL Draft begins in Chicago. No fewer than four of the first dozen selections will have Florida ties.

Cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey of Florida State and Florida’s Vernon Hargreaves III from Tampa are well known to most college football fans. Both are certain to go among the top dozen picks with Ramsey poised to be among the top three. Another projected top five pick is Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, who starred at Ft. Lauderdale’s St. Thomas Aquinas High School.

Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, a native of Lake City, Florida, was set to be the top pick of the draft. The Tennessee Titans, with the first overall pick and a glaring need on the offensive line, were set to take Tunsil.

A huge pre-draft trade between Tennessee and the Los Angeles Rams upended the war rooms of several teams. The Rams, who now hold the top pick, are said to be taking one of the top quarterbacks available.

Tunsil may still be the first Floridian chosen in the draft. The 6-foot, 5-inch, 310-pound wrecking ball will still improve any offensive line that he joins.

Coming out of Columbia High School, he was the top offensive lineman prospect in the country. Many expected him to join the Georgia Bulldogs, but chose Mississippi instead.

He was as good as or better than the hype. Tunsil was ready to play right away and credited much of that readiness to his development at Columbia High School. The opportunity to practice against teammate and future Florida State All-American Timmy Jernigan made him a better player, he said.

Tunsil has shown the pro scouts all they needed to see to believe he will be a top pro lineman. There is a downside to Tunsil, but not one large enough to hurt his draft position.

He made poor choices by accepting improper benefits while at Mississippi, leading to a seven-game last season. He missed the Rebels’ upset of an Alabama team that would go on to the national championship. He was also missing when Ole Miss came to Gainesville and was thrashed by the Gators, 38-10.

“I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support,” said Tunsil. “I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program.”

While Tunsil is expected to go in the top five, it is possible he could still be available when the Baltimore Ravens pick sixth. That would reunite him with Jernigan, who will begin his third year in Baltimore this fall.

The Thursday night draft coverage will cover the 31 picks that constitute the first round. New England will not have a first round selection as a result of Deflategate.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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