The Notre Dame pro day on Tuesday was certainly widely anticipated by media outlets and NFL draft fans. Of course, the center of attention was on the controversial Manti Te’o, a linebacker who was up for the Heisman Trophy this past year and wound up losing not only that, but losing the National Championship game in embarrassing fashion and then being embarrassed by the whole fake girlfriend scandal.
Now, Te’o has put that all behind him and after a grueling week at the NFL Scouting Combine (where he performed sub-par), Te’o has cemented his status as a first round pick, in my opinion. At his pro day, Te’o improved upon his 4.81 second 40 yard dash at the Combine by running an unofficial 4.71. For reference, former Alabama inside linebacker Rolando McClain was selected in the top 10, and ran a 4.69, just 0.02 faster than Te’o.
The key for the former Notre Dame star is going to be whether or not some team feels he can be a three down linebacker, and to me, that’s never been a question. If you don’t think Te’o can be instinctive enough to cover ground in the passing game on third downs, then send him at the quarterback. He’s proven to be effective enough in both of those areas.
With Te’o, his biggest strength has always been the work he puts in off the field. He is physically imposing at 6’2″ 250 pounds, or hovering around there, but he’s not the fastest or strongest guy. What Te’o does is lead his team by example, lead vocally, and get the job done almost without fail.
That’s why he was up for the Heisman trophy.
I’m not saying Te’o is going to be a top 10 selection, but he will come off the board likely from about pick number 19 to pick 32. I could see any of the Giants, Bears, Vikings, Broncos, Texans, or Ravens being interested, with maybe a few wildcards in there. I know for a fact that the Broncos have been very intently watching Te’o this offseason. John Elway and the Denver brass talked to him personally at the Scouting Combine, and the Broncos had a contingent on hand for Te’o's pro day as well.
When all is said and done, no matter what you think of Te’o, he will probably be a first round pick. If he isn’t, he will surely be selected in the top five or 10 picks in the second round, and definitely no later than that. If he is, consider me shocked. This is a guy who has done nothing but make plays, and while coming back for his senior year provided him with his best overall season as a collegiate player, it’s pretty incredible how the fake girlfriend situation has clouded people’s judgment of him as a player, and what he can bring to a team.