Manti Te'o's draft stock is falling after he failed to impress scouts at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
The Notre Dame linebacker wowed the nation with a stellar senior season in 2012, logging 113 tackles (55 solo), 1.5 sacks, seven interceptions and one fumble recovery. He led his team to the BCS National Championship Game, finished second in the Heisman voting and was once considered a lock to go in the first round.
That is, before Te'o and the Fighting Irish were bulldozed by Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
He struggled to shed blocks, was constantly getting handled by Alabama's offensive linemen at the second level, took poor angles and missed tackles.
This single performance caused many scouts to wonder if Te'o has what it takes to play at a high level in the NFL. Alabama's offense, after all, is the closest thing in college to an NFL offense.
A strong performance at the combine would have dispelled many of the concerns about Te'o as a pro player and solidified him as a first-round talent.
Unfortunately, after his poor showing on Monday, Te'o's Round 1 status is in serious jeopardy.
A drill that measures explosion, the broad jump demonstrates what kind of burst a player has from a stationary position. It is useful when evaluating whether or not a player has enough core strength to win at the point of attack.
Mike Mayock said during NFL Network's broadcast that last year's average for middle linebackers was 9'8".
Luke Kuechly was the top inside linebacker in 2012. He was selected by the Carolina Panthers with the No. 9 overall pick, and he posted a mark of 10'3" (fifth best in 2012).
Te'o didn't perform well in this drill at the combine, posting a subpar mark of 9'5".
This number helps confirm something scouts had already been worried about: Te'o's athleticism.
The NFL is fully stocked with elite athletes on offense who can go the distance on any given play. As a result, it's imperative for defenses to feature players who can keep up with them on the field.
Inside linebackers that are taken in the first round of the draft are sideline-to-sideline linebackers who can play all three downs.
Kuechly ran the 40 in 4.58 seconds, and his speed translated well to the NFL game. Dont'a Hightower was the only other inside linebacker taken in Round 1 a year ago, and he posted an official time of 4.68 seconds.
Alec Ogletree—one of Te'o's top competitors and a player many scouts have rated higher than the Notre Dame linebacker—ran it in 4.70 seconds, and Zaviar Gooden ran it in 4.47 seconds.
Te'o's first attempt on Monday wasn't pretty, as he ran an unofficial 4.81-second 40-yard dash. His second attempt was not much better, as he logged an unofficial 4.80-second time.
John Harbaugh is not impressed with Manti Te'o's 4.80 forty yard dash time ble.ac/V1Wntd— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 25, 2013
In the end, his official time turned out to be slightly worse, per NFL Network's Rich Eisen:
Manti Te'o's official 40 time is 4.82— Rich Eisen (@richeisen) February 25, 2013
From NFL Around the League:
Manti Te'o goes 4.80 unofficial in his second run. Mayock notes that Te'o doesn't have an extra burst after 20 yards. #NFLCombine— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) February 25, 2013
After all the official results came in, Te'o ran the seventh-slowest 40-time of any linebacker at the combine out of the 26 who participated in this drill.
The first drill Te'o and the linebackers did on the field was the shuffle drill. He didn't look fluid, and his hips were stiff.
From NFL Network's coverage, Mayock thought Te'o was trying too hard. Given the way he struggled early with the broad jump and 40-yard dash, it makes sense that he was putting in extra effort, but the fact remains that Te'o didn't look smooth in this drill.
Te'o looked better in the bag drill, looking smoother and more confident with his movements. He kept his head up and let his feet do the work.
Next up were the drop-back drills, where linebackers show scouts what kind of hip-flex they posses while backpedalling. Te'o did a fine job in this drill, displaying the same athleticism and fluidity that garnered him seven interceptions for the Fighting Irish last season.
Te'o struggled with his footing a couple of times and actually fell down in the pass-rushing drills, but he looked much better overall in these field drills than he did on the track.
After a short rest, the linebackers hit the drills again, and Te'o looked much more comfortable.
The vertical jump, much like the broad jump, measures how explosive a player is with his legs and core.
Te'o performed well in this drill, posting a mark of 33 inches—the eighth-best total of all linebackers. Ogletree out-jumped him by one-half of an inch, but in the grand scheme of things, this doesn't amount to anything.
This drill is important for scouts to measure a player's change-of-direction abilities, as well as their ability to focus.
Te'o posted a fantastic time of 7.13 seconds, which made him the sixth-best linebacker in this drill.
While Te'o didn't perform well in the 40-yard dash, which measures straight-line speed, he showed that he has the ability to make quick adjustments on the fly—an important quality for a linebacker tracking down agile, quick running backs.
This drill, much like the three-cone drill, measures a player's ability to accelerate and change directions. It measures burst and hip-flex, which are both important attributes for a linebacker to possess.
Te'o performed admirably in this drill, posting a mark of 4.27 seconds—the sixth-best time of any linebacker. He proved he's capable of being an effective short-burst player who has the hips to make up for any mistakes he makes with his immediate read.
After all the hype surrounding Te'o as a player, his combine performance can only be described as disappointing.
He displayed below-average explosiveness and speed, which doesn't translate to a first-round grade. Combined with the bad tape he put together in the title game against Alabama, NFL scouts will have to really do some deep digging to determine his true worth.
Based on what I saw, Te'o may not be selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, and I'm not the only one with this opinion.
Furthermore, via NFL Around the League:
Mayock predicted Te'o could lock up the first round with a 4.70 forty. Unofficial times were 4.80 and 4.81 nfl.com/news/story/0ap…— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) February 25, 2013
Te'o's combine performance definitely hurt his draft stock. This isn't to say that he won't be an excellent pro, but it does mean he isn't likely to land in Round 1 of the draft.
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