Manti Te'o (pronounced MAN tie Tay - Oh) is 6'1" 243 lb senior middle linebacker from the University of Notre Dame.
College Production / Stats
Te'o was the most heralded player coming out of high school in 2009 when he signed to play at Notre Dame. He was a four year starter for the Irish and their leading tackler his sophomore year on. He improved every year at Notre Dame but made significant strides and became an impact player his senior year.
Te'o had not recorded a turnover until his senior season. But after shedding 10 pounds and becoming quicker and faster before his senior season Te'o busted out with seven interceptions in 2012. That's unheard for a linebacker at any level. He also won more awards than any other college football player in history.
Te'o was a thumper in college that ran from sideline to sideline. His intangibles are off the charts and he was the glue of a Fighting Irish team that had an undefeated regular season and played in the BCS title game before losing to Alabama.
As his time progressed at Notre Dame Te'o became a big time play maker for the Irish. He had a couple of key interceptions against Michigan and Oklahoma and another big one against USC. He also made a huge stop against Stanford on the goal line at the end of the game that preserved the win against the Cardinal. In short he was the complete package as a college football player.
And then along came the Crimson Tide! While too much has been made of Te'o's performance in one game the idea of Te'o being a sideline to sideline player at NFL speed is gone. That's not who he's going to be in the NFL. His measurables in terms of height, weight and speed are not ideal for a prototypical NFL middle linebacker but they're not bad either. Alabama came right at him without too much trouble. And while others seem to believe this is quite damning for Te'o I think it's being overblown a little bit.
Most NFL linebackers have trouble getting off the blocks of an NFL lineman who has him squared up. And Alabama has plenty of NFL lineman. There are also concerns about his average 40 times at the combine and his pro day at Notre Dame. Indeed, Te'o is not a burner, but he is quick.
Potential Landing Spots
Minnesota is reportedly taking a long look at Te'o. Chicago would seem to be a possible landing spot as well. Another couple teams to remember are Denver and Baltimore, both of whom are filling holes at middle linebacker.
About halfway through the season Mel Kiper and others had Te'o in their top five or ten. That was never going to be the case once junior players declared for the draft. And then the BCS title game and NFL combine came along and Te'o slipped quite a bit. How much? Not enough to slip out of the first round. Don't listen to all the static on the airwaves. Te'o is an easy target now. People wont' feel the same in a couple years.
I haven't heard anyone else say this but Te'o reminds me of A.J. Hawk. Hawk was a bit bigger coming out of college and more a of a thumper than Te'o but Te'o is quicker. Both had outstanding collegiate careers in the Midwest. Hawk became a top five NFL pick for the Green Bay Packers. Te'o was once thought to be that. He's not anymore. For better or worse the spotlight that landed on Te'o has exposed some of the warts that Hawk probably shared but hadn't been detected yet when he was drafted.
Hawk has been a good football player for the Green Bay Packers and has a had a solid career. But he has not been the impact player the Packers thought they were getting. In the last two seasons he has created no turnovers. None. For as much as Hawk plays and as many tackles as he makes that's nearly unfathomable.
If Te'o plays football in the NFL like he did the first three years at Notre Dame he will be a fine football player who makes tackles up and down the line of scrimmage and will struggle at times covering people in space. Just like A.J. Hawk.
But if Te'o continues to blossom as he did he senior year with the Irish somebody will have themselves a real play maker. Something Hawk never evolved in to.
A play maker in the NFL is worth his weight in gold. And infinitely more important than a less than ideal 40-yard-dash time.