However, this injury will have a minimal effect on his draft status.
Te’o is a born leader. As his NFL.com scouting report details, Te’o’s size and strength are not in question. He has shown in a four-year career at Notre Dame that he can use his instincts to get into the right spot and wrap up anyone. At 241 pounds, Te’o can match up physically with NFL running backs. Te’o’s numbers back this up, as he accrued 437 tackles and 34.0 tackles for loss in his excellent college career.
Although draft scouts would love to have as much data as possible on a highly touted prospect, Te’o will not suffer much without his bench press; his strength is well-established, and Te’o backed that up with four years worth of game film.
The real question mark on Te’o lies with his speed and pass coverage skills.
At only 6’1”, Te’o already possesses a size disadvantage matching up against bigger and taller tight ends and slot receivers. He combines this with a slow backpedal and poor acceleration. Te’o also may have slow top-end speed. If he can cut and turn with the receiving playmakers, it may not matter since he could get burned badly.
Te’o’s shoulder stinger may affect him mentally, but he should not be affected much during the speed drills.
In addition, it is worth noting that Te’o had a terrible BCS National Championship game.
As the Heisman runner-up, Te’o was unquestionably the best inside linebacker available. But Te’o missed a number of tackles and looked unusually poor all game. Considering that was his swan song effort in college, that raises a few questions leading into the draft. This may affect him mentally, but he should be smart enough not to push himself too hard at the combine and cause further injury.
But all this information leads to one ultimate conclusion: Te’o’s bench press doesn’t matter.
The combine goes through endless cone drills. Te'o must step up with his speed and agility, but he will showcase his natural strength that will have scouts drooling. Te'o also must step up with the broad jump, which will showcase whether he has serious explosion and lower-body strength. Other key drills that do not stress his shoulder too much are the shuttle run and the high jump. Te'o will likely be at full strength for those drills.
But Te’o is an unbelievable leader and tackler, and that is where his value lies. His strength is clear when you simply look at his frame. Again, having a blank on Te’o’s scouting report is not ideal. But the place where Te’o must prove himself lies in the speed and agility drills.
As for the shoulder stinger, Te’o is smart not to risk making the injury permanent through the bench press. His shoulder injury may nag him, especially when trying to whip his arms during a drill such as the 40-yard-dash.
But Te’o is very tough, and the injury should have little effect on his combine results and draft stock.
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