Mant'i Teo's Latest Draft-Day Projections from Top NFL Experts

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Mant'i Teo's Latest Draft-Day Projections from Top NFL Experts
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

There is no shortage of strong opinions when it comes to former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o.

The former Fighting Irish star is projected to come off the board in the latter half of the first round in the 2013 NFL draft, but the main question is: “where?”

Let’s take a look at where some of the experts are projecting Te’o to land in order to catch up on some of the latest buzz surrounding the hot prospect.

 

Matt Miller, Bleacher Report

Full mock draft link here. 

Where Manti Te’o lands: Chicago Bears at No. 20 overall.

What Matt Miller says:

Te'o is enigmatic, for sure, and he now comes with more media attention than anyone would like, but he's also one of the safer picks in this year's class. For the Chicago Bears and their massive need for an inside linebacker, that's a great combination.

There is a natural connection between Chicago and Notre Dame, and the Bears' strong locker room—with veteran leaders like Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers—will be an ideal situation forTe'o as he tries to work his way past the "catfishing" scandal and move on as a football player.

The Reality:

 Miller has consistently pegged Te’o as a mid-first round prospect since his poor showing in the BCS National Championship Game, tweeting out that he was poised to drop to the 15-20 range in April.

Now that the event is right around the corner, Bleacher Report’s draft guru has penciled in Te’o to Chicago at No. 20, which makes perfect sense for a team that is barren of youthful talent in the linebacking corps.

While it’s a bit early to grab an inside linebacker that can’t rush the passer very well, the Fighting Irish star perfectly fills an area of major need, and he fits the Bears defensive scheme.

We’re not going to mark this one down with ink, but don’t be surprised to hear Chicago call Te’o’s name on Thursday night.

 

Mike Mayock, NFL Network

Full mock draft link here.

Where Manti Te’o lands: Chicago Bears at No. 20 overall.

What Mike Mayock says:

I think this kid's a three-down linebacker. I think he's a leader in your locker room. I understand all the off-the-field concerns, but at the end of the day, he's a leader, and you want him.

The Reality:

Mayock’s reasoning for Chicago drafting Te’o is a bit different than Miller’s.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Peppers and Briggs will provide leadership next season, while Te'o could fill Brian Urlacher's shoes.

The NFL.com expert believes that the Notre Dame product’s leadership is the main reason why the Bears should desire him on their roster, but that seems to be a long-term benefit.

As Miller said, Lance Briggs and Julius Peppers are the elder statesmen on the defense and have been perfectly capable of holding the locker room together. However, with Briggs turning 33 this season and with Peppers already at that age, they can’t be counted on to fulfill those roles forever. Grooming Te’o for leadership and as an anchor in the middle of the defense could pay dividends down the line.

It’s also interesting to note that Mayock sees Te’o as a three-down backer, which is a concern that a number of scouts have had about the prospect in the NFL. If that winds up being the case and the Bears draft him, it’ll make Chicago fans quite happy.

 

Rob Rang, CBS Sports

Full mock draft link here. 

Where Manti Te’o lands: Minnesota Vikings at No. 25 overall (via Seattle).

What Rob Rang says:

The Vikings have a gaping hole at middle linebacker after allowing last year's starter, Jasper Brinkley to leave via free agency. Minnesota general manager Rick Spielmanappears to have an affinity for Notre Dame players, as he's collected five of them, including trading back into the first round a year ago to nab free safety Harrison Smith. Lost in the bizarre off-field saga is the fact that other than the national championship game, Te'o had proven himself to be among the most consistent players in the 2013 class.

The Reality:

The Vikings are an ideal organization for Te’o, as Rang pointed out that they have a huge need for a player with his talents—especially behind their fearsome defensive line.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Te'o could be reunited with former teammate Harrison Smith if he is selected by the Vikings.

Te’o would be joining a number of Golden Domers on the roster, which should help make him feel right at home during his rookie campaign.

While the Vikings do have a number of holes to fill—on both sides of the ball— in order to remain a playoff squad, the void at inside linebacker in the 4-3 is most pressing.

With no major moves made in free agency, aside from losing Brinkley, it makes perfect sense for Minnesota to pull the trigger on Te’o if he’s available here.

 

The Latest Buzz

It may be quite apparent from the expert takes, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com recently confirmed that the Vikings and Bears are two organizations that “love” Te’o.

What is more interesting is that the reporter found that Minnesota plans to trade up to No. 19 or higher, in order to swipe the Notre Dame star before Chicago has a chance to select him.

It’s worth noting that there are plenty of smoke screens and misinformation being disseminated by clubs prior to and during the draft, so these types of trade rumors should be taken with a grain of salt.

However, because of the numerous draft picks that the Vikings possess and their dire need for an interior linebacker, it’s an extremely plausible scenario.

 

Manti's Take

While Te'o didn't delve much into where he thinks he will wind up in the draft, he spoke at length to NFL.com's Alex Flanagan about the challenges he has faced in 2013 and how it has molded him into the person he is today. 

It's an interesting watch that gives deeper look into the man behind the helmet.

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