And so it begins. It’s not officially April yet, and the draft hearsay and speculation from anonymous people who evidently work for NFL teams is already beginning to clog the tubes that make stuff appear on your computer screen. I’m going to warn you in advance of the next month or so: comments similar to what you see below will often appear in this space prior to April 25, and although I’ll attempt to cut through the fecal matter and I’m generally in the business of telling you what you should believe because writing my opinion on things is sort of what I do, this is a time when I’m a humble messenger.
I’ll mostly pass the scathing and steaming hot rumor your way, and you’ll consume it however you please. Hell, when draft season really kicks into ultra overdrive, we’ll likely even dedicate a daily post to these rumors and anonymous speculation.
Alright then, with that disclaimer out of the way, get this: a few scouts don’t think Manti Te’o will be a first-round pick. Madness.
Yesterday at Notre Dame’s Pro Day, Te’o improved his 40 time for those who think that matters and will affect his draft stock. As I wrote then, his play on tape and the strengths and weaknesses scouts and GMs can view over and over again will ultimately determine where he’s drafted. It’s obviously nice and helpful if you’re a middle linebacker with blazing speed, but there’s been plenty of highly successful players at the position drafted recently who hovered around Te’o's 40 time, or even lower.
Te’o will be the most widely talked about prospect in this draft who doesn’t play quarterback. Yeah yeah, that’s mostly because of the whole fake dead girlfriend thing, but I think we’re reaching a point where that would be true even for football reasons. It’s becoming difficult to gauge how dynamic he really is, and whether or not he’s a true three-down linebacker. Typically, teams don’t spend a first-round pick on a linebacker who’s skillset is concentrated towards run stopping.
That’s why over the next 30 days, you’ll hear a lot of anonymous people say contradictory things. So kick us off, Jason Cole from Yahoo! Sports.
Cole spoke to several scouts and coaches at Te’o's Pro Day yesterday, and here’s a sampling of their liberal Te’o bashing:
“Nice player, but not worth a first-round pick. Not in my view,” said an AFC personnel man who was on hand. “It’s the old saying about, ‘It only takes one team to fall in love with a guy.’ ”
“I think he can play and he can help your defense,” an AFC head coach said. “But he’s a two-down player on a good team. He’s not a star. If I’m taking a linebacker in the first round, I want a guy who can change my defense. Trust me, I’ve been wrong about linebackers before, but this guy doesn’t fit the bill of what I spend a high pick on.”
“He’s not good enough in my view. Now, I say that and we haven’t finalized our board yet. But with the upside that I see and the needs that we have just on defense alone, I wouldn’t recommend that,” the defensive coordinator said. “If I’m taking an inside linebacker in the first round, I want a big, intimidating hitter who can play all three downs. I want a Patrick Willis or a NaVorro Bowman. Te’o is not in their class, not by a long shot.”
The major knock on Te’o has predictably come from his BCS title game tape. That’s when he was beaten badly and repeatedly by Alabama’s power running game. One scout used a particularly troubling word: “overwhelmed”.
Oh, and “manhandled”. That too.
“He got overwhelmed, just like the rest of the team,” the AFC coach said. “It’s one thing to get your butt whipped, it’s another thing to get manhandled. He got manhandled. You can do all these pretty drills that you want and he can run whatever time he runs, but that’s what I see every time I watch that game.
“I never saw that with Ray Lewis or Jonathan Vilma when I watched their tape.”
As much as I despise the quotes from AFC guy X, that one’s legit. In a major game, Te’o folded. Is it fair to significantly drop his value based on that one game? No, probably not. But them’s the breaks, kid.
If we’re going to spend a month poking and prodding this guy, let’s stick to comments and criticisms like that, and steer clear of wild and baseless accusations.
Wow. Jamie Dukes just accused Te’o of possible HGH use on NFL AM. So, there’s that.
— SC_DougFarrar (@SC_DougFarrar) March 27, 2013
If anyone needs me I’ll be underground, chillin’ with the underpants gnomes.