NFL Draft 2013OpinionSpeculation

Draft Target: Manti Te’o

A month ago, Vikings fans would have salivated over the idea of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o falling into their laps at the #23 spot of the upcoming NFL Draft.

Now, however, Te’o has found himself in the middle of one of the most bizarre stories to hit the sports world since… well, possibly ever.  The story of Te’o being a part of one of the biggest hoaxes of all time has led most to wonder about his character, and also doubt his ability to be a leader in the NFL which was one of his best attributes in college.

One thing that has become explicitly clear over the last few weeks are that the special connection that Te’o had with football lovers around the nation was every bit as fictional as his online girlfriend.

Weirdness and intangibles aside, Te’o still possesses first round caliber abilities and one can’t help but wonder what the Vikings might do if he is available when they are on the clock.  After all, the Vikings could clearly use some help at the linebacker position and G.M. Rick Spielman has an affinity for players coming out of Notre Dame.

Te’o has four years of experience, with progressive production coming from each season, as the heart of Notre Dame’s front season.  He is a very strong and sound tackler that does a good job of getting around or through blocks to make a play.  He plays the run with great instincts and discipline, which seems to rub off on the rest of the defense.

Te’o also possesses a range and fluidity in pass coverage that the Vikings defense could desperately use.  Over his career he has displayed an ability to play smart zone coverage (17 passes defended) and has a knack for heads-up plays (7 interceptions).

There are questions about Te’o’s speed and athleticism, and his forty time will be highly anticipated at the Scouting Combine, but I felt like he already answered a lot of those questions by dropping into coverage a lot more during his senior year with great success.  11 of his defended passes (and all seven picks) came in his senior year.

With all of that said, there is no doubt that Te’o isn’t the fastest linebacker in the world, and isn’t going to wow any scouts with his blitz abilities.  For the Vikings defense under Alan Williams, who seldom asks his linebackers to blitz, Te’o could be a great addition to a defense that places a lot of emphasis on stopping the run.

The whole hoax thing could make the Vikings a good fit for Te’o.  He would be surrounded by former teammates and other Notre Dame greats, which Rick Spielman has loaded up on recently.  Safety Harrison Smith would be playing right behind Te’o.  He could line up on special teams with Robert Blanton.  Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson are on the offensive side of the ball along with center John Sullivan.  There also may not be a head coach better equipped to deal with Te’o’s unique situation than Leslie Frazier is.

I have little doubt that Te’o could step into the regular season as a starter on this defense, besting either Jasper Brinkley or Erin Henderson.  I’m not convinced that he would be the guy we want to be selected at #23, but I am also not convinced that he isn’t, as it would depend greatly on what other options exist when they are on the clock.

Here are some of his highlights from college:

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Adam Warwas

Adam Warwas (Founder) has been writing about the Vikings for a total of eight years. Five of those years have been here at Vikings Territory where he continues to surround himself with enough talented individuals that people keep coming back. As proud as he is of what Vikings Territory has become, his real treasures are in his home... a beautiful wife and three amazing children (and a dog named Percy).

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  1. hmm, good fit because the vikes have a lot of ND guys? that’s what he had at ND

    idk about his play, haven’t watched him, but he sure seems like a nutbag. he’s gonna get extra scrutiny now. if he checks out and he’s a good value, he could be worth it, i suppose, and we need LBs, but i wouldn’t be surprised to see us take a WR or DT in the first round

    1. Yes, he had ND guys around him in college… Where he grew into one a great leader, smart play caller, and beloved figure. Up until the national championship game he enjoyed one of the most celebrated careers of any college defensive player ever.

      His success in college cannot really be questioned much. It is his ability to draw appeal and lead a group of men at the next level is what is now in question.

      I suggest that ND teammates might make the Vikings a good fit for him, not that he should be considered a good fit for the Vikings because of that.

  2. I wouldn’t be against it, if vikings feels like his mental state is fine. Also We have a few players who have played with him and perhaps know him better than anybody else. So there will be a big possibility for us to get a great insight.

  3. Trying to remember… He’s single right? Or did he get married online…? Help me out here.

    Adam, do you really think he will fall to 23? I’d really be surprised at that. We’d have to trade up, right?

    1. I thought there was a good chance he’ld be available at 23 before the whole fake dead girlfriend thing. I’m really not sure this guy is as talented as his press clippings make him out to be. I haven’t watched a highlight real of him yet that shows him consistently knocking guys backwards when he’s tackling them. He doesn’t miss many tackles (excluding the national championship of course), but I see a lot of guys falling forward picking up valuable yards before he brings them down. Also, seems like all of his picks last year came off of deflected balls or completely errant throws by QB’s. Don’t get me wrong, the fact that he’s in the right place to make those picks is a good thing, it just doesn’t seem that Manti Te-o the individual stands out as a much better player than the guys that are around him on that defense. I think he’ll be a solid starter but I’m not sure if he’s a star in the making.

      1. I have seen a lot of people “knock” Te’o because his INTs were somewhat gift wrapped. I can’t deny that, but thinks it shows great awareness and instinct that he is able to capitalize on those situations.

        Imagine how much we’d all be gushing over Jamarca Sanford of he made the most of his (dozens) opportunities like Te’o has.

        1. I’m not really trying to knock him on the picks, as you said, he’s capitalizing on opportunities and thats huge. I just bring it up because some people are going to look at his senior stats and see 7 interceptions and immediately assume he’s the best coverage linebacker in the draft and that’s probably not the truth. The fact that he didn’t have any picks the previous three years also makes me wonder. I just get a little nervous about a player when I watch 5 minutes of highlights and don’t really see anything that jumps off the screen…these are highlights afterall, they don’t show him getting run over by Bama. I really want to see how he does at the combine. If he tests well in all the drills I’ll be less worried his production is more a product of the 3-4 defense he played in. The three guys that lined up in front of him this past year were all 300+ lb block eaters. He won’t have that here if the Vikes draft him, so projecting him to that even front is another issue they have to work through.

    2. I think two of his best traits were leadership ability and market appeal. I’m guessing that if you take those things away (which may or may not happen) and he runs slow in Indy (which may or may not happen) then honest scouts give him a late first or early second type of grade.

  4. Not too many Hawaiian girls in South Bend Indiana… I can understand a long distance/online relationship in his situation. Yes, he fell in love too easy… that is what young people do. And yes, he told some white lies and stretched the truth… most people have.

    Let the kid do what he does best – play football.

    Spielman has already seen plenty of tape on this kid to know if he is worthy of pick #23.

    IMO, I don’t think Spielman will shy away from Manti.

    I think Te’o would be a good fit in Minnesota!

    1. Mentally, maybe. Being over trusting isn’t the same thing as being stupid, though, in my opinion… Especially as it translates to playing football.

      Physically? I think he catches too much flak here… Do you want him covering Sproles man to man? No. But better Te’o than Jasper Brinkley.

      1. Having met Mrs. Grant in first grade, and recognizing that times have changed, I am certainly no expert on girlfriends, but I am pretty sure that if you tell someone you are distraught over the death of your girlfriend, that person would assume you have been in this girlfriend’s presence a few times. There is a problem beyond “too trusting” here.. Whether that affects your ability to cover and tackle is another question.

  5. I can see where they think he would be a good fit. A guy who got “catfished” playing in the land of 10,000 lakes! 🙂

  6. AD MVP
    best rb ever
    AD MVP
    in all of history
    AD MVP
    nobody deserves it more
    AD MVP

  7. I don’t think Teo is a great fit for us here in MN. Teo is a lot like Greenway and you only need 1 player like that on your team. Both are sure tacklers who are always around the ball and make the sure plays. I think it would be better to pair a wrap up bland (sorry Chad but you aren’t fast, you arent a big hitter, you aren’t a playmaker but you are just always there) with a fast big hitting playmaker. That is why I like Ogletree because I think him and Greenway would make a better combo than Greenway and Teo.

    1. Based on how I expect things to play out at the combine, I completely agree with this. I also think a lot of teams ahead of the Vikings are going to see it this way and Ogletree will likely be gone by the time our pick roles around. If both Ogletree and Te-o were available I would select the Georgia product first if the draft were today. Te-o is just such an enigma to me right now I hate to give a final answer before I’ve seen the guy do more in a controlled setting like the combine.

      1. I don’t blame him for the girlfriend thing, I feel for him. That said I just don’t think he’s that good especially for us. Taking a LB in the first round is like taking a TE he better be a stud or else.

  8. The combine will make or break Te’o as a first round pick.

    Audie Cole is an example of an instinctive LB that fell a couple rounds because he ran 4.81 and only lifted 225lb 15 times at the combine. If Audie would have wowed some people with some athleticism at the combine, he could have been drafted near the 5th round.

    All eyes will be on Manti… He must shows some speed, strength and athleticism at the combine.

  9. ok, so it’s basketball, but do the t’wolves make all their opponents look this good?

    lakers haven’t closed games out very well, especially on the road, so it ain’t over