Manti Te'o: Bengals Won't Let Linebacker Get Past Them in First Round

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Manti Te'o: Bengals Won't Let Linebacker Get Past Them in First Round
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

According to Sports Illustrated's Peter King (via Matt Miller), linebacker Manti Te'o won't get past the Bengals with the 21st overall selection in the 2013 NFL draft.

Te'o disappointed many evaluators after he clocked a slow 4.82 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, but the fact remains that throughout the college football season he played like a first-round pick.

Depending on whether or not you believe his side of the story about his fake girlfriend, the fact remains that Te'o may have been playing distracted during his worst performance of the season against Alabama.

If scouts are content to throw out the performance against Alabama and accept that Te'o isn't a sideline-to-sideline player, he becomes a rather interesting prospect.

NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah recently mocked Te'o to the Ravens with the 32nd overall selection, but that prediction is looking much less likely after King's report.

Concerns about Te'o's size exist, but he'd be well-protected behind a four-man defensive line featuring stars like Geno Atkins. He'd be a better fit as the "Mike" in a 4-3 front than as an inside linebacker in a 3-4.

The Bengals had a lot of success taking a chance on Vontaze Burfict last year after the linebacker ran a bad 40-yard dash time. Burfict also had much worse off-the-field concerns than Te'o, as teams haven't questioned Te'o's maturity and drive like they questioned Burfict's last year.

Head coach Marvin Lewis could pair Te'o and Burfict to make for an interesting linebacker rotation next season, or the coach could start both, giving Te'o the opportunity to live up to his first-round billing from the beginning of his career.

Look for Te'o to be a much talked about draft prospect as "Lying Season" goes on. The linebacker could go as high as No. 17 to the Steelers.

Follow me on Twitter for more NFL updates @EliNachmany.

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