Manti Te'o to Chargers: How Does Linebacker Fit with San Diego?
San Diego traded away that selection and the 110th selection overall in order to snag the Notre Dame linebacker with the 38th pick of the draft. Te'o was a projected top-10 pick as recently as two months ago, so it is hard not to think the Chargers found extreme value in this pick.
Inside linebacker was not one of the Chargers' chief areas of need heading into these proceedings, mainly because there are so many other glaring issues.
The interior of the offensive line needs talent, King Dunlap is a poor excuse for a left tackle, the secondary is depleted and the top sack artist from last season (Shaun Phillips) is gone. In other words, San Diego has plenty of positional concerns that must be addressed.
However, it is impossible to fault the team for picking someone of Te'o's caliber. He can step onto the field immediately for the team and find a place to contribute. This is a pick that I gave an "A" grade in my draft tracker here at Bleacher Report for that very reason.
Ignore the recent girlfriend scandal and media frenzy that has surrounded Te'o. When focusing on what he does on the field, you see a player who has a strong 6'1", 241-pound frame and can move well laterally. He is a sound tackler who has decent explosion and always gets to the hole before running backs can get to the second level.
Simply look at this film of Te'o from all the way back in 2010. He made 21 tackles in a single game against the Stanford Cardinal and showcased the wide range of skills he possesses. The linebacker makes tackles in the backfield, in coverage and inside and outside the tackle box:
Te'o's ability to create tackles and make instinctive plays will be of utmost importance for a San Diego team that can use linebacking help wherever it can get it. It released Takeo Spikes, and Demorrio Williams is now a free agent.
Jonas Mouton currently sits atop the Chargers depth chart at left inside linebacker, but his skill set is inferior to that of Te'o. In three games of action last season, Mouton recorded just one total tackle.
Te'o should have no problem overtaking Mouton on the depth chart and pairing up with Donald Butler as the inside linebackers in San Diego's 3-4 defensive scheme.
Where he may struggle is in his attempts to set the edge against the faster running backs that the NFL has to offer. Te'o's straight-line speed was exposed at times last season, especially in the BCS National Championship Game. That game also showed how he can sometimes struggle to shed blocks, as evidenced here:
This could be a non-issue if he improves, but right now that straight-line speed is a major area of concern.
However, he is still someone who will be a defensive leader immediately. The Chargers have to deal with the intelligence of Denver Broncos QB Peyton Manning twice a year, and Te'o will not be easily fooled by fake signals or route adjustments.
What grade would you give the Te'o selection?
Te'o can take command of San Diego's defense and be a leader for the next decade. That leadership ability has come under some fire, but all of his recent interviews show a player who has learned from his mistakes and simply wants to focus on football.
Playing away from the heart of the media spotlight in San Diego will provide him with that opportunity, and the Chargers' 3-4 scheme will allow him the chance to prosper.
This is a tremendous fit for the Notre Dame linebacker, and the Chargers continue to make smart decisions as the draft progresses.
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