At Notre Dame's pro day on Tuesday, Manti Te'o was hand-timed as low as 4.71 seconds in the 40-yard dash, a tenth of a second improvement on his electronically timed 4.82 effort at the NFL Scouting Combine. The Irish linebacker was a debatable first-round pick after his slow time in Indy (and in the wake of his fake girlfriend saga). Does the improved time solidify him in Round 1? And where will he go?
I think Manti Te'o is a late first-round pick, regardless of what happened today. He plays at a 4.80 on tape, and that is how I judge him.
Ultimately, Te'o's draft position will be determined by team needs in the bottom third of the first round, as well as how organizations rate Georgia's Alec Ogletree. Ogletree is the better linebacker, but he probably will be most effective on the outside.
Let's be honest: 4.71 isn't exactly burning up the track, even at linebacker. While I don't always agree with NFL measurables and wish scouts would judge more on instinct and what they see on tape, this guy is a different deal, considering the ancillary stuff.
I initially had Te'o pegged for the Baltimore Ravens at the bottom of the first round, but I don't really see him being selected that early anymore. I believe he's a bit of a question mark for an investment that large, although we're not talking about a precipitous drop in draft stock here.
Although I've been skeptical -- and remain so -- Manti Te'o is a first-round talent and he'll go in Round 1. It only takes one team to fall in love with him and ignore his past. No, not the fake girlfriend thing. I'm talking about his performance against Alabama.
The Minnesota Vikings seem like a logical landing spot. They've shown a proclivity for taking Notre Dame players in the past and have two first-round picks. But the Vikings parted ways with Percy Harvin this offseason. And if they aren't willing to put up with Harvin's alleged problems in the locker room, I doubt they would bend for Te'o. So the Baltimore Ravens are a good match for him. Not only did the Super Bowl champions just experience a linebacker exodus, but they boast a solid locker room that could rise above the increased scrutiny.
I feel bad for the kid, but I wouldn't be inclined to draft him. Not after witnessing the media circus that surrounded Tim Tebow's trade to the New York Jets (and the ensuing damage done to the team). The Te'o scrutiny won't be as intense, but it'll still be there. And professional football players do not enjoy constantly answering questions about other guys. It's simply too big a distraction to be worth the possible on-field benefits.
That said, I would enthusiastically support a reality dating show with Tebow and Te'o.
Things are starting to calm down for Manti Te'o now. The girlfriend issue is five minutes ago, and he did run better at his own pro day. Slowly but surely, the negative stuff will hit the back burner and everything prior to Jan. 1 will re-emerge in the positive column as he's evaluated.
Te'o won't go as high as he was once projected, but he'll be off the board by the end of the first round. Teams that desperately need an impact performer will shy away early, uncertain if he can be a franchise-type player. Most likely, he'll go to a playoff team from a year ago that doesn't have a lot of holes to fill and sees Te'o as a great value pick. Somewhere between 25 and 32 will be Tebow -- um, I mean Te'o -- time.