Manti Te'o improved his 40 time at Notre Dame's pro day on Tuesday, giving his perceived draft stock a much-needed boost.
According to ESPN's Matt Fortuna, Te'o's official 40 time on Tuesday was 4.69 seconds:
Matt Fortuna @Matt_Fortuna
#NotreDame says Manti Te'o ran a 4.69 40 today, which would've been 5th-fastest among ILBs at combine and 9th among all LBs at combine.3/26/2013, 7:57:24 PM
Perception is a big deal these days, especially for a young man like Te'o, who was recently an unfortunate victim of a "catfish" scandal.
Te'o's ability to play inside linebacker hasn't changed one iota in the past few months, but perception of his potential value to NFL teams has shifted radically from one extreme to another since last year.
Back in November, when Te'o's hype was at an all-time high, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. had convinced himself that the Kansas City Chiefs would be smart to select Te'o No. 1 overall.
Then, after Te'o and the Fighting Irish were crushed by Alabama, suddenly Te'o was omitted from Round 1 of many a mock.
Kiper Jr. is somewhat of a sensationalist, and most real students of the game laughed at the notion that Te'o was worthy of a No. 1 overall pick. That said, until he was dominated by the offensive linemen of Alabama, the general consensus around draft circles was that Te'o was a potential top-10 pick.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller had Te'o being selected by the Oakland Raiders with the No. 4 overall pick as of December 5, 2012, and his perception of Te'o at that time wasn't unique. In his analysis of Te'o in this mock, Miller wrote:
Te'o is a Heisman Trophy finalist, and my pick as the winner. He's been at the top of his game for the last two seasons at South Bend, doing things that linebackers simply don't do. He's totalled seven interceptions in the 2012 season, showing off his vision, instincts and agility. He's been a force between the hashes, too.
Te'o shortly thereafter had the worst game of his career on the biggest stage of his young life, with the "catfish" scandal following on the heels of that football-related embarrassment. He then bombed the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, which only further added to the negative perception about his pro potential.
He is still the same player he was when Miller wrote what he wrote in December, but before his pro day, questions persisted about whether or not Te'o was a first-round pick.
Thankfully, all that negativity can now be shelved.
Yes, Te'o struggled badly against Alabama. Yes, he's not as athletically gifted or as fast as Patrick Willis. These truths don't preclude him from going on to have a stellar career in the NFL, however.
The talented linebacker's improved 40 time and otherwise positive pro day finally gives him the momentum he needs to head into the draft with confidence that he'll be selected somewhere in Round 1.
Judging by team needs and by how the draft board has shaped up, he could be selected as early as No. 19 when the New York Giants pick. He could also fall all the way to No. 32, but the Baltimore Ravens won't let him fall further than that.
Te'o is a darn good inside linebacker, and he certainly didn't hurt his draft stock on Tuesday at his pro day.
Scouts know what he can do on the field, and now that he's out from under the abysmal 4.82-second 40 he ran at the combine in Indy, he's sure to see a bit more public support as a first-round prospect.
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