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Assessing Manti Te'o's NFL Draft Stock After Notre Dame's BCS Championship Loss

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 07:  Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish warms up prior to playing against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game at Sun Life Stadium on January 7, 2013 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 8, 2013

The BCS National Championship Game wasn't a good one for Manti Te'o and Notre Dame, as Alabama dominated from start to finish, winning its second consecutive title by a score of 42-14.

What does finishing his senior season with a loss mean for Manti Te'o's NFL draft stock?

Some, like Tim Tebow's "evil twin brother", Tom, don't think very highly of the senior linebacker after Monday night's performance:

Manti Te'o is Hawaiian for "Future NFL Draft Bust." #BCSChampionshipGame

— Tom Tebow (@IamEvilTebow) January 8, 2013

That's a bit extreme.

While Te'o did not have the game many expected—or that the Irish faithful hoped to see—the truth of the matter is that not much has changed about Teo's draft stock.

Everyone loves a winner, and the fact that the Fighting Irish lost badly will have people coming out of the woodwork to voice criticism and feign concern over Teo's ability to handle the NFL game.

It's just what critics do.

We'll hear more about how Te'o isn't the most athletic linebacker and that he's not the tackling machine that many have made him out to be.

We'll hear about how his speed concerns front office personnel as it pertains to dropping back into coverage at the next level, something that an unnamed AFC executive bought up to Albert Breer of NFL.com back in December:

Speed will be a factor with Manti, because you're gonna be in a position to cover backs and tight ends at that spot, and not just on third down. Teams throw on first and second down, so you have to be able to run and cover. You don't want liabilities in coverage in your base. I don't think he's a liability. Does he run well enough? He's not speed-deficient, but with his play speed, in coverage, there are some specific guys you'd have questions about.

Guys like Jimmy Graham, Darren Sproles, or the (Chris) Cooley or (Dallas) Clark types, those guys get separation. You might be worried about him there.

That's all well and good, but you can count the number of linebackers who can routinely stay with a Graham or Sproles on one hand. Those guys present mismatches for everyone.

Ultimately, losing to Alabama doesn't change the type of football player that Te'o is.

He still has exceptional instincts and intangibles that are off the charts. He is still an excellent tackler, one who can shed blockers to get to the ball-carrier.

Te'o still has the uncanny ability to raise the level of not only his play, but also the play of his teammates. As an emotional leader, that sort of impact is invaluable at the next level, and plenty of teams could use such a presence on defense.

You can't coach what this young man brings to the table—players either have it or they don't. His true value can't be measured or timed; it can only be gauged by his production and impact on the field and in the locker room.

If a team wants to be short-sighted and pass on him because his team lost one game all season, by all means, go right ahead.

There will be 31 other teams able to see the big picture that would love a chance to add Te'o to the middle of their defense.

Losing to Alabama doesn't change a thing with Manti Te'o.

He's still the future leader of an NFL defense—and he's still going to be a first-round draft pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

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