Have you ever seen a player’s NFL Draft stock plummet so fast in such a short period of time as Manti Te’o’s?
He was projected as a high first-rounder when he was finishing second in the Heisman Trophy and enjoying a record-setting senior season at Notre Dame. Then it all came crashing down.
First came the girlfriend hoax and all the bad publicity that surrounded that fiasco. Next was Te’o’s disappearing act against Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game. As if that wasn’t enough, an abysmal showing at the NFL Combine last month seemed somewhat appropriate all things considered.
Now you not only have people forecasting him falling out of the first round, but those wondering – and for good reason I might add – if he’ll be a bust in the NFL.
I just can’t remember a player being such a hot commodity in the eyes of NFL player personnel in November and by late February being talked about as pretty much a has been.
But that’s exactly the predicament Te’o finds himself in after a forgettable NFL Combine performance in Indianapolis.
Te’o has no one to blame but himself.
You have to wonder just how committed he’s been the last seven weeks or so. Yes, he had been training down in Florida, but looked anything but in shape compared to his counterparts in Indy.
Te’o’s best 40 time of 4.82 was terrible, ranking 20th of the 26 linebackers in attendance.
Afterwards Te’o claimed before the Combine he was running near a “4.6, a 4.5.” Who believes that?
To make matters worse, he didn’t lift because of a “stinger” in his shoulder. Really? That’s just more baggage for a guy that doesn’t need anymore weight on his shoulders.
Why wouldn’t he bench unless he felt like he would under-perform?
Basically the only excuse Te’o had for his nightmarish showing was a lack of sleep. “Today was a just a long, long day,” he said. Boy, that has to make those who might sign his checks feel even better.
Te’o has one opportunity remaining to save his draft stock.
On March 26 Te’o, the NFL Draft’s most high profile prospect, will be in the crosshairs yet again. That’s Notre Dame’s Pro Day in South Bend. It goes without saying that it would be in his best interest to run sub-4.8 in the 40 and would also be a good idea for him to bench press for all the scouts expected to invade the Notre Dame campus.
Te’o still has his staunch supporters. Former NFL coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden thinks he’ll have a very good future in the NFL. Ex-NFL player and current ESPN college football analyst Mark May – not exactly known for being a big fan of the Fighting Irish shall we say – vehemently disagrees.
On Twitter, May tweeted, “Any team that wastes a 1st round pick on Manti Te’o should fire their GM on draft day. He’s a mid to late 2nd at best.”
ESPN analyst Merril Hoge has been just as tough on Te’o. On the network Wednesday he dissected Te’o’s game on tape pointing out several of his weaknesses, saying he wouldn’t be surprised at all if Te’o slipped as far as even the third and fourth rounds on everybody’s draft board.
Then there’s ESPN’s Todd McShay who thinks it’s within reason for the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens to replace Hall of Famer Ray Lewis with Te’o using the last pick in the first round (No. 32 overall) on him.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh’s negative reaction to Te’o’s 40 time, however, seemed to paint a picture of Baltimore not being interested at all in the former Notre Dame All-American.
The list of Te’o skeptics seems to be growing by the second.
It seems like just yesterday NFL teams were salivating over the opportunity to draft Te’o. He was one of college football’s most accomplished players and appeared to be as tough as granite. Now, though, he’s viewed as being soft and there doesn’t seem to be much mental toughness remaining in his frame.
In less than three weeks, Te’o better get his beauty sleep, toughen up and bring his A+ game.
If he doesn’t, he’ll be waiting a long time to hear his name called on draft day.
Doug Griffiths is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the US Basketball Writers Association. Doug is a columnist/writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter @ISLgriffiths and Facebook.