The San Diego Chargers selected one of the most high-profile players in the 2013 NFL draft with the No. 38 overall selection by drafting Notre Dame inside linebacker and 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o. The Chargers traded their fourth-round pick (No. 110 overall) to the Arizona Cardinals to move up from No. 45 to No. 38 to ensure the opportunity to select Te'o.
Te'o is one of the best run-stopping middle linebackers in the 2013 draft class. He is an instinctive playmaker and consistent tackler who physically attacks blocks at the line of scrimmage, fills holes well and is consistently in position to make plays in the middle of the field.
He is not an exceptional athlete nor sideline-to-sideline player, which could limit him to being a two-down player, as he will struggle at dropping back in pass coverage and defending screen passes to the outside. That said, he has shown an ability to get himself in the right place at the right time to make coverage plays against intermediate passing. He is also a good fit to line up as an inside linebacker in the 3-4 defense in San Diego.
Te'o is unlikely to have a big impact on the value of San Diego's team defense in fantasy football, but he does a great job of rallying to the football and making tackles in the middle of the field, which will give him good value in terms of tackles in an individual defensive players league. He should be an immediate starter and could be a solid late-round choice in IDP leagues as a rookie.
Following the release of Takeo Spikes, the door is wide open for Te'o to come in and be an immediate starter at one of the two inside linebacker spots in the Chargers defense. He will face competition from 2011 second-round pick Jonas Mouton and recent addition D.J. Smith, but he should go into training camp as the favorite to start next to Donald Butler at inside linebacker.
Although Te'o was one of the best players available early in the second round, there were still two better inside linebackers available in Kevin Minter and Arthur Brown. The best choice among them for the Chargers would have been Brown, who would add speed, athleticism and coverage ability at the position for the Chargers.
The Chargers could have stayed put at the No. 45 overall pick, kept their fourth-round pick and still had the opportunity to draft Te'o or Minter (depending on whether the Cardinals had still drafted Minter at No. 38 overall), which also hurts the value of this pick.
That said, Te'o is a good fit for the Chargers defense, fills a need area and was solid value at the No. 38 overall pick. He was not the best pick among the players available, but he should pay immediate dividends for San Diego.