The Minnesota Vikings and Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o have been attached at the hip in a lot of mock drafts, and logically so since the Vikings have a void at middle linebacker with the departure of Jasper Brinkley in free agency. General manager Rick Spielman has also shown an affinity for Notre Dame players, including three that played with Te’o (tight end Kyle Rudolph, safety Harrison Smith and cornerback Robert Blanton) that are currently on the Vikings’ roster.
Te’o, apart from any shortcomings he may have as a player, brings with him the potential distraction brought on by the fake girlfriend scandal that surely had a lot of NFL teams questioning his makeup. The Vikings have shown plenty of interest in him during the pre-draft process, and with a few of his college teammates on the roster they are better-equipped than any team to get further insight into the man.
Speculation about what teams are interested in which players is at full-tilt at this point, but Ian Rapoport of NFL Network has reported the Chicago Bears are also interested in Te’o as they look to replace a middle linebacker of their own with the decision not to re-sign Brian Urlacher. The Bears currently hold the 20th overall pick, so the Vikings may have to consider trading up from their first pick (No. 23 overall) if they really want Te’o.
The linebacker position is not deep with talent this year, and Te’o is still widely thought of as the top prospect at inside linebacker. But there are two linebackers I personally like better than Te’o, in Georgia’s Alec Ogletree and Kansas State’s Arthur Brown. They are among the outside linebackers in pre-draft position rankings, but each played middle linebacker in college and should fit at that spot at the next level.
I think it would be a bad move for the Vikings to trade up in the first round to select Te’o. It can be assumed the New York Giants at 19th overall would have some interest in him as well, so how high would Minnesota have to go just to make sure they get a player that happens to play a position of urgent need? Giving up one of their first-round picks, and surely a later-round pick as well, to address one position for a team that has plenty of holes to fill is purely foolish to me. If the Bears want Te’o at No. 20, Spielman should let them have him without a second thought.
I am not against the idea of Minnesota drafting Te’o, but only if they stay put at No. 23 or No. 25 overall and he is available there. Teams trade up for players who are clearly potential difference makers or the clear-cut best player at their position, and leaving the off the field stuff aside Te’o does not fit either criteria in my opinion.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.