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Take a look at Ray Lewis with the Baltimore Ravens and Patrick Willis with the San Francisco 49ers, and you can see just how valuable a very good middle linebacker is.
When Joe Mays struggled early in the 2012 season, defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio turned the defense over to veteran linebacker Keith Brooking. Brooking had a superb season, and the defense began to improve. But at 37 years old, how many more seasons does Brooking have?
Steven Johnson has shown promise backing up Brooking, but if Denver does not view him as the long-term answer, don't be surprised if they take Manti Te'o from Notre Dame.
Will he fall this far? It is more possible than people think.
It isn't the girlfriend situation that is going to hurt his draft status. NFL teams have drafted players with far more baggage than this. This wasn't a legal issue or a health issue.
No, it is his subpar performance in the national championship game that is going to drop his stock.
The Alabama offensive line pushed Te'o and his teammates around, and when they didn't, Te'o missed tackles and showed poor play-reading ability.
But understand that Alabama's offensive line was a top notch unit and capable of making many players look bad.
Manti Te'o is still highly intelligent and has very good instincts. He had 113 tackles and seven interceptions as a senior.
This pick could be a steal for the Broncos.