Why Cincinnati Bengals Won't Take a Chance on Manti Te'o in 2013 NFL Draft

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Why Cincinnati Bengals Won't Take a Chance on Manti Te'o in 2013 NFL Draft
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The Bengals do not need a linebacker like Manti Te'o in the 2013 NFL draft.

The Cincinnati Bengals are a team often linked to former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o as the 2013 NFL draft looms closer. 

Most recently, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com mocked Te'o to Cincinnati with the No. 21 overall pick and stated the following reasons:

Is there a team better equipped to handle the Te'o situation? Marvin Lewis has dealt with Chad Johnson/Ochocinco, Terrell Owens, the late Chris Henry, Pacman Jones and Vontaze Burfict. He'll gladly welcome questions about a fake girlfriend. All of the craziness aside, Te'o is a solid player and would fill a need for the Bengals.

The problem with the Bengals taking Te'o in the first round and the explanation provided here is twofold. For one, Cincinnati does not need an inside linebacker, and two, Te'o is not a good enough prospect to be taken in the first round. 

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Te'o is a big name for off-field issues not even worth diving into at this point. On paper, his stats for his 2012 campaign alone jump off the page and justify a first-round grade. He recorded 111 total tackles on the year to go with seven interceptions. 

The statistics are great at first glance, but looking deeper will reveal some issues. 

Of those 111 tackles, 62 were assists. This means that over half of Te'o's tackles were mostly after a teammate had already made a hit, insinuating he is slow to the ball-carrier outside of the hash marks

On film. Te'o is simply average. Bleacher Report's very own Sigmund Bloom broke down Te'o in a report recently. and pointed out some of Te'o's issues, including his lack of speed:

Te'o does not have legitimate sideline-to-sideline range, but his size makes him ideal for inside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, where range is not as important. He has a decent motor and is generally moving toward the ball until the whistle.

Instincts are not his strength, as Te'o appears to be guessing or reacting to what is happening instead of anticipating on most plays. He often guesses wrong or is a beat late from making a play, but Te'o still disrupts enough to be a catalyst for his teammates to make plays. 

As Bloom points out, Te'o lacks ideal speed and has issues diagnosing what an opposing offense is doing. This means he is extremely vulnerable to misdirections and the play action, even more so at the professional level. It also means he is best suited for a 3-4 defense—Cincinnati employs a 4-3 under Mike Zimmer

Bloom also goes on to point out that Te'o does not receive enough credit in coverage, and that he does well in zone as long as "they are not speedsters." The problem is, all NFL slot receivers are speedsters, and the new breed of tight ends taking over the league are eerily fast and have great size as well. 

Ignoring the issue that Te'o is hardly worth a first-round pick, it also goes without saying that the Bengals do not need an inside linebacker. Yes, Rey Maualuga is a free agent and may not be brought back. 

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Rey Maualuga's free-agent status in no way means Manti Te'o fills a need for Cincinnati.
Regardless of whether or not Maualuga is brought back, it is widely believed that Vontaze Burfict will slide to his more natural position in the middle next year. Burfict was explosive after going undrafted and racked up 127 tackles and one sack at weak-side linebacker. 

Burfict sliding over means the Bengals will have a need at the weak-side spot. Cincinnati will likely attempt to bring back Thomas Howard if he's healthy; Howard missed most of last season after injuring himself in practice.

Burfict would have likely replaced Maualuga in the middle in 2012 if Howard had remained healthy. Howard is far and away the best linebacker on the roster when healthy. 

The biggest need for the Bengals in the linebacker corps is at strong- or weak-side linebacker, depending on the fate of Howard. Head coach Marvin Lewis is still desperately searching for a pass-rushing linebacker after the failed experiment with Dontay Moch. As we have already diagnosed, Te'o is strictly a middle linebacker in the NFL. 

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
All signs point to Vontaze Burfict taking over in the heart of the Cincinnati defense—which eliminates any Manti Te'o talk.
In fact, the Bengals and most of the fanbase are intent on replacing a player like Maualuga in the middle. On film, Te'o is not all that different from Maualuga during his days at USC before Cincinnati took a risk on him in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft. 

Replacing Maualuga with a very similar player such as Te'o does not scream forward progress for the franchise. 

It is common to see troubled players mocked to the Bengals. After all, Marvin Lewis has made a habit of taking problem players and creating a nice redemption story. Stories such as Adam Jones and Burfict come to mind, just to name a few. 

Te'o will not be given a Marvin Lewis redemption trip with the Bengals unless he plummets drastically during the draft—even then he might not land in Cincinnati. He does not fit a need and is not good enough to come in and make a difference immediately

Under the tutelage of Lewis, the Bengals have strung together outstanding draft classes over the past few years. The 2013 NFL draft should be no different, and avoiding Te'o will be key to another quality class. 

 

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