Forget the Russians.
The most notorious hacker in pro sports, at least in the past year, was whoever sabotaged Laremy Tunsil’s draft night.
The now infamous video of Tunsil smoking weed through a gas-mask bong, posted on Twitter just moments before the start of the 2016 NFL Draft, cost the Ole Miss tackle millions.
Don’t believe what teams who passed on him said at the time; league sources privately believe he was a top-3 pick heading into the evening. He instead fell to the Dolphins at 13 as nervous clubs ran for cover.
A year later, Tunsil is a cautionary tale about the dangers of social media, even though he wasn’t actually the one who hit send. (Tunsil’s hacker has never been identified publicly, although most believe it was a disgruntled ex-financial adviser.)
“You tell everybody, with social media right now, that's how the world, how everybody's going to perceive you,” ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper said this week. “That's your own website, with the things you put out there. You've got to be really careful and understand there's going to be ramifications if something is not favorable. I hope everybody has learned from that.
“But you never know,” Kiper added. “You just sit back and hope. You don't want to see anybody have to worry about sliding down because of something like that, talented players who should go, based on ability, in the top group drop back a little bit. You never want to see that.”
Mel can rest easy.
Agents have spelled out social media do’s and don’ts — in detail — with their draft-eligible clients.
The short version: Don’t be a knucklehead.
“Real simple,” one NFL player agent told the Miami Herald. “During draft process, stay off social media unless it’s workout related.”
Another said: “Be smart. If you’re not sure it’s a good idea to post something on social media, then don’t.”
And a third added: “Most of them don’t really toy with it during the draft anyways because they’re so anxious about what’s about to happen. I just want them to know somebody is always watching. So you need to think before you tweet something.”
Common sense, right? There’s actually nothing common about it.
Savvy players know these rules, but many others tweet before they think. Like Antonio Brown, the star Steelers receiver who inexplicably live-streamed Mike Tomlin’s locker room speech after Pittsburgh’s playoff win over Kansas City.
Even after that embarrassment, the Steelers still awarded Brown with a record five-year, $68 million contract extension just weeks later.
And the Dolphins are so pleased with how the Tunsil pick worked out, they traded away Branden Albert in the offseasson, clearing the way for Tunsil to move from left guard to tackle.
In other words, a social media gaffe is like most every other “distraction” in the NFL. If you’re great or even really good, mistakes will largely be excused.
“We drafted him in the first round because we felt like he was an elite left tackle,” Dolphins coach Adam Gase said last week. “We felt like we had a special player there. When we watched him practice at left tackle, it just looks different. When you watch him, he doesn’t look like a guy his size. He moves so smooth.”
Kiper added: “He's a guy that's going to be critical to [Ryan] Tannehill and how he performs. It fell right in the long run for Tunsil, in terms of where he went to Miami. He looks like he's got a nice career going there. But I would think everybody is aware of how much that can affect where you can end up on April 27, 28 or 29.”