Manti Te'o did not have the combine performance he had hoped for, but scouts and fans alike shouldn't count him out as a future impact and/or star player in the NFL just yet.
The biggest story lines coming out of Te'o's combine was his lackluster showing in the 40-yard dash. Te'o posted an unimpressive time of 4.82 that landed him near the bottom of the pack of the linebackers in this year's draft class.
Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh was not pleased with what he saw.
While people will blow that result way out of proportion, it doesn't seem NFL general managers are, per Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune:
That 40-yard dash time? Didn't mean a whole lot.
It's never a bad thing to run a sizzling 40, but the truth is track speed has little to do with middle linebacker play. "If a middle linebacker runs a 4.82 but he is instinctive and quick in a short area, the 40-yard dash time doesn't matter," one AFC general manager said. "At that position what matters is they are productive and make plays."
It's likely there are other GMs who agree with that one. Also, Pompei's article points out that Seattle Seahawks linebacker Lofa Tatupu ran a 4.83 40-yard dash and only went on to make three Pro Bowl appearances after.
Te'o might have underperformed in that particular drill, but he was respectable in just about every other area. At the end of the day, teams are looking for a good player on the field, not just a workout stud.
Coming into this combine, Te'o had every disadvantage a young player could have. After that whole fiasco with the girlfriend hoax, the young Notre Dame star became a national punchline and has been swarmed by the media nonstop.
Even after the incident has been pretty much laid to rest, Te'o had to face an astounding amount of media upon arriving at the combine and answered the same plethora of questions he had answered before.
It was one of the few times in his football career that Te'o had to face this kind of scrutiny in numbers, so it comes as no surprise he didn't live up to expectations in this workout. The pressure likely got the best of Te'o and that was apparent when looking at his stiff form during the drills.
Even with that, there were some teams that felt Te'o did a great job with the team interviews, according to Pompei:
"Manti did a real good job with the interview," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "You could see how smart he was, how bright he was."
Vikings general manager Rick Spielman praised Te'o for being upbeat and full of energy in their interview session even though he was being interviewed at 10:45 p.m. after Te'o previously had been interviewed by a dozen or so teams.
That was important for Te'o because there's no better way to reach interested teams than personal meetings. Not only did Te'o apparently handle those interviews well, but he looked extremely poised in front of countless reporters badgering him with tough questions.
To me, that scores major points for Te'o's character, and character is an important trait to NFL teams.
The two biggest knocks on Te'o at the moment is the fact that he was bulldozed in the national championship by Alabama and his combine showing wasn't up to standard.
It's no coincidence that the game against Alabama happened after he had found out he was tricked, and the combine workout was shortly after Te'o had to face an unprecedented amount of press.
Te'o's next opportunity to show he's a viable first-round pick and then some will be at Notre Dame's pro day on March 26.
If he can perform at a high level, Te'o will instantly improve his draft stock and it will erase what happened at the combine. If he doesn't, Te'o's workout results will be a trend and it's one that would no doubt scare NFL teams from drafting him.
I'm not foolish enough to say that Te'o can't fall out of the first round no matter what because clearly he's on his way to doing just that.
But I will say that Te'o still has a great chance to erase the memory of this week with a great pro day considering he has far more positives on his resume than negatives overall. You can't just wash away a great college career full of awards in one day, and Te'o can prove that soon enough.
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