Over the last few weeks, and all the way until the ceremony on December 8, you're sure to hear all the reasons Manti Te'o should win the Heisman. The truth is, it doesn't matter whether he does or not.
His true reward for a great career at Notre Dame should be reaching top 10 status in the 2013 NFL draft.
When the college season wraps up and the NFL draft rolls around, there's sure to be plenty of debate where Te'o will wind up. His college resume is undeniably good. For four years he's been a mainstay on the Notre Dame defense.
He could have left after his junior year and been a first- or second-round selection. But that's just not Te'o's style. He is a true leader that puts team above himself and that's just one of the many reasons he should be among the first players to have their name called in New York next April.
It's hard to substantiate intangibles when evaluating a college prospect, but Te'o's leadership and attitude are so evident that it's hard not to figure them into his draft stock.
When asked by the New York Post what Te'o has meant to Notre Dame, athletic director Jack Swarbick had this to say:
This may sound like hyperbole but I can’t think of a leading player, a leader of the team that matches the values of his team as well as Manti Te’o... He is the perfect guy to lead the resurrection of this program.
Ultimately, how much a player's team wins has little to do with their NFL draft stock. Players from programs with every level of success can wind up in the NFL. If you have the skills and size to be drafted in the first round, you will.
However, Te'o's case has to be a bit different. Te'o has been one of the main reasons that one of the country's most high-profile programs has a shot at a national championship for the first time since 1988.
Te'o's charisma and presence on a winning team should give him an extra boost when it comes to draft stock. Especially at the top of the draft, there are plenty of teams that need a player that knows how to win and can become a leader on the defensive side of the ball.
No one fits that bill like Te'o.
You can be the best leader in college football, but if the production and skills don't line up, you'll still wind up being a late selection.
That isn't the case with Te'o.
The linebacker has been an absolute stud statistically. Not only is Te'o a high-volume tackler, but he has shown that he can consistently make plays on the defensive side of the ball.
According to Sports-Reference, Te'o has registered well over 100 total tackles in his sophomore, junior and now senior seasons. His 427 tackles throughout the course of his career currently have him 14th all time in NCAA history in the category.
Outside of racking up tackles Te'o makes big plays too. In 2011, Te'o showed off skills as a pass-rusher. He recorded five sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss.
This season, Te'o has backed off on his pass-rushing duties, but he's displayed a comfort in pass defense that will translate well to the NFL, he has recorded seven interceptions from the middle linebacker spot.
When should Te'o be drafted?
When it comes down to it, Te'o has proven he's an NFL commodity.
When you look at the body of work Te'o has put together at Notre Dame, it's clear to see that he lives up to the hype. At 6'2" 255 pounds, he has the prototypical size that NFL scouts clamor for at the linebacker position.
Middle linebackers rarely warrant an early first-round selection but Te'o's playmaking ability is what sets him apart. In his career, he's shown off the ability to get after the quarterback and the ball skills to be useful in coverage.
With the NFL's tendency towards more passing, those are skills that becoming more and more valuable regardless of position.
If Te'o is not a top 10 selection in draft come April, at least 10 teams will have made a huge mistake.