SportsTalk Live: How rough was Te'o's week at the Combine?
Manti Te'o ran the 40-yard dash twice Monday, with his first run unofficially clocked at 4.81 seconds and the second at 4.80. That's not good news for the ex-Notre Dame linebacker, who needed to run between a 4.6 and 4.7 to boost his draft stock.
Instead, Te'o's draft stock will absorb another hit with a "slow" tag slapped on it. Couple that in with a miserable performance against Alabama in the BCS Championship and the Lennay Kekua saga, and some have Te'o slipping to the back of the first round or even to the second round of April's NFL Draft.
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Two months ago, that thought would've been preposterous -- in fact, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said in December Te'o could be selected in the first 3-5 picks. And while Te'o, per plenty of reports, has impressed those he met with at the Scouting Combine, a sub-par 40 time will have much more of an impact on where he's drafted in two months.
The biggest concern with Te'o wasn't necessarily the fake girlfriend saga, it was his ability to be a three-down linebacker who could ably drop back into pass coverage. While Te'o did intercept seven passes in 2012 -- the most by an FBS linebacker since 2000 -- that's a number that may not hold weight against better, faster NFL offenses.
As Mike Mayock said prior to the combine: "Up until that story became public, he had a plus, plus, plus intangible grade. Was he going to become Ray Lewis? Could he galvanize a locker room? He had a huge intangible grade that would push his on-the-field grade higher. I think he's lost all of that. At best, it's now going to be neutral. Just, hey, what kind of player you are, and where can we slot you?"
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Te'o's greatest asset, at least while with Notre Dame, was his leadership ability. He was a fantastic collegiate player, but there were plenty of other defensive players with more ability than him. What set Te'o apart at Notre Dame was his ability to pull a team together, and that certainly played a part in the Irish reaching the BCS Championship.
But in the NFL, Te'o is viewed just as a linebacker, not a leader. And as a linebacker, he's tested below what many on his side would've hoped heading into Indianapolis.
Over the weekend, Te'o talked to the media about controlling the things he can control -- in other words, on-the-field stuff, not his public perception. His 40-yard time, though, didn't do much to accomplish that goal.
"Hopefully by doing the things I can control well I’ll have more favor in the other category," Te'o said. "Whatever team I go to, I’m just going to be me, I’m going to work hard, I’m going to do my best to help the team win. And whatever happens happens."