January 7, 2013 started a three-month downfall for Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te’o. After a poor performance in Notre Dame 42-14 blowout loss to defending champion Alabama, allegations of Te’o's inspirational story of losing his grandmother and girlfriend were reported to be inaccurate in a way that most could not simply believe. Te’o's grandmother did indeed pass at the age of 72. Te’o's girlfriend who supposedly was battling leukemia and injuries from a dangerous car accident was the issue. ”Lennay Kekua” was not even a real person. After the world had learned the true version of the Manti Te’o story, most turned on the Maxwell Award winner.
To make matters worse for the 6’1″, 241 pound linebacker, his NFL combine performance was seen as “disappointing” and “slow”. Even an online GIF was made of Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh shaking his head in disgust as Te’o ran a 4.82 40-yard dash. All lights were on bright for Te’o during the Combine in March. His press conference had just about every media member in attendance. So after three months filled of doubt, disappointment, questions and red flags, the $64,000 question is…
Where will Manti Te’o be drafted in this weekend’s NFL Draft?
Based on which “mock draft” you look at, most have Te’o in the latter part of Thursday’s first round. Four experts on NFL.com have Te’o in two different landing spots: Minnesota and Baltimore. Minnesota has the #23 and #25 picks in the first round due to the trade of Percy Harvin to Seattle. Another landing spot of interest has been the Chicago Bears. With the Bears parting ways with long-time middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, the need to plug a big hole in the defense is there for the Monsters of the Midway. The Bears have the 20th pick on Thursday night.
Like I mentioned earlier, Chicago has a need to fill that middle linebacker position with the loss of Urlacher. Chicago has met with Te’o during pre-Draft meetings. The Bears run a 4-3 defense, and most would assume they aren’t high on D.J. Williams filling that need in the middle. Chicago would be a good landing spot for Te’o, but talks of the Bears getting another weapon for Jay Cutler to throw to and the pressure of filling a potential Hall of Famer’s shoes could shy Chicago away from drafting Te’o at #20.
Minnesota (#23, #25):
This seems to be the potential spot for Manti Te’o. Minnesota has two picks in the first round and a need for a linebacker is definitely there. Chad Greenway is a tackling machine in the middle for the Vikings, but being 30 years old is slowing raising a red flag to draft a future replacement for Greenway. The Vikes seem to be wanting to address the defensive tackle need and the linebacker need with their first round picks. Rumors of them trading up are there with the first pick of the round, and then possibly taking Te’o at #25 according to NFL.com’s Charley Casserly.
The most intriguing landing spot for Te’o. Future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis went out on top with Baltimore winning another Super Bowl, so the need for a middle linebacker is there. With Lewis retiring, Ed Reed heading to south to Houston, Bernard Pollard leaving town for Tennessee and Dannell Ellerbe signing a $35 million deal in Miami, the Ravens defense looked completely depleted. With the signings of Elvis Dumervil to present a nasty pass rush on the outside and Chris Canty coming from New York, Baltimore began to fill the holes left. The most intriguing one they haven’t filled yet could be with this pick at #32. If Minnesota doesn’t snag Te’o with their two first rounders, this could be the spot for Manti Te’o.