Notre Dame is playing for the school’s first national title since 1988 in the Discover BCS National Championship Game vs. Alabama and for many this will be the last time lacing up the cleats, but Notre Dame features one player that will hear his name called early in the NFL draft in April and play for another decade.
Heisman runner-up Manti Te’o will be the first to hear his name called during the draft and is likely to be a top-10 pick. Te’o surprised many when he returned to South Bend for his senior year, but the folks at Notre Dame are counting their blessings they got to watch the best linebacker in the program’s illustrious history. He led the team to an undefeated season and the #1 ranked scoring defense with his vast skill-set that will make him a rare high pick at middle linebacker in the NFL.
He is a complete linebacker that can make plays sideline-to-sideline and displays great instincts in the pass game as his seven interceptions this season will suggest. I think he is an underrated pass rusher and wasn’t asked to do that much in this system, but could be average four or five sacks a season depending on the NFL system he plays in. His best traits that will endear himself to NFL teams is that he is a passionate and vocal leader that displays maturity and resolve well beyond his years and will be a starter from day one in the NFL.
Te’o could make a lot of sense at number five to the Detroit Lions who could use his leadership to shore up an undisciplined defense and number six where the Cleveland Browns are in dire search for a leader on defense. The lowest he goes could be to the New York Jets at number nine who could use his character to help fix toxic locker room.
First things first though, Te’o is focused on guiding his Fighting Irish defense for one more game and hoping to shut down the Crimson Tide offensive attack and bring the school the first title in more two decades.
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