This time last year the NFL prospects for Notre Dame Fighting Irish middle linebacker Manti Te’o were through the roof. Entering his senior season, the reviews read that Te’o was a leader on defense with instincts that matched his uncanny leadership ability. Te’o is now the punchline to constant jokes, a two-down linebacker and his defensive captaining skills are a thing of the past to some.
I understand the Lennay Kekua situation is rather extreme, but the DUI that fellow middle linebacker Alec Ogletree suffered the week of the NFL Combine is just as, if not more, of a red flag to future employers. Te’o conjured up a fancy hoax; so what? That doesn’t mean he is trouble off the field or that his ball-hawking habits have gone by the wayside.
Obviously, his performance in the National Championship game against the Alabama Crimson Tide was poor, but in case you missed it, the Tide made a lot of first-round picks look silly in 2012. Taking a four-year career like Te’o’s and summarizing it with one off game is a wrong way to grade a prospect in any sport.
Early on, Te’o was thought to be a top-15 pick, but one team is going to get the highly scrutinized linebacker at a discount. My guess is that the Minnesota Vikings will select the former Irish standout with the 25th overall pick considering they have many needs at the position and can address any other issues with the 23rd overall pick. The Vikings have yet to fulfill their need at middle linebacker, so Te’o appears to be a perfect fit with this NFC North club.