What Manti Te'o's BCS Title Game Flop Means for His NFL Draft Prospects

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What Manti Te'o's BCS Title Game Flop Means for His NFL Draft Prospects
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame's reputation wasn't the only thing that took a hit during the 2013 national championship beatdown at the hands of the dynastic Alabama Crimson Tide. 

The draft stock of middle linebacker and Fighting Irish defensive backbone Manti Te'o dropped after the nation keenly observed a forgetful and rather atypical performance against the stiffest competition. 

Heading into the game, the decorated defender who took home enough hardware in 2012 to fill an entire award case was the consensus top linebacker in the upcoming draft class. 

At 6'2'' and 255 pounds, with 103 tackles and seven interceptions during a season in which he battled through the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day, the vastly experienced Te'o was a surefire Top 10 pick. 

In mid-November, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. suggested the Kansas City Chiefs should take the Notre Dame linebacker with the No. 1 overall pick. 

Mind you, a true middle linebacker hasn't been picked No. 1 overall since Tom Cousineau in 1979.

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A handful of missed tackles and the inability to shed blocks to make plays against the Crimson Tide running attack will rightfully send fear into the minds of NFL scouts, head coaches and general managers. 

Through it all, Te'o remains a first-round prospect. 

However, he never should have been projected as high as he was, for a few reasons. 

Though his frame and overall bulk are impressive, he isn't a supremely speedy athlete, and because of that, working from sideline-to-sideline has never been a strength of Te'o's game. 

Sure, he runs relatively well for someone his size but certainly exudes power more than he exudes quickness or sheer speed. 

For a 3-4 team looking for a blitzing, downhill inside linebacker to plug the run and occasionally drop into coverage, Te'o is a fine prospect who has DeMeco Ryans-esque promise at the next level.

Many skeptics will point to "intangibles" and "leadership" as overrated characteristics because they can't be quantified in today's super analytical age, but a team will factor those attributes into their evaluation of Te'o.

And they should. 

Before the national title game, the hype that followed Notre Dame's magical season had almost unfairly elevated Te'o's draft stock to a next-Ray-Lewis level. 

The crushing defeat revealed Te'o's faults on the grandest stage and will likely push him back in Round 1, the position he should have been projected to land all along. 

 

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