Manti Te'o Will Have Best NFL Career of Heisman Finalists

Brian Leigh@@BLeighDATFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08:  (L-R) Heisman finalists quarterback Johnny Manziel of the Texas A&M University Aggies talks to linebacker Manti Te'o of the University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish during a press conference prior to the 78th  Heisman Trophy Presentation at the Marriott Marquis on December 8, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Manti Te'o fell short of becoming the first pure defender to win the Heisman Saturday night. Texas A&M's Johnny "Football" Manziel joined the exclusive fraternity of winners, and he was probably the right guy to take home the hardware.

But in the long run, Te'o will have the last laugh.

Because unlike Manziel and fellow finalist Collin Klein, there is nothing nebulous about Manti Te'o's future at the next level. Unlike Manziel and Collin Klein, there are no questions about his size or skill.

Unlike Manziel and Collin Klein, we know (at least as much as we can) where Manti Te'o will be playing in five years.

Just look at where the most respected online draft pundits rank him on their big board:

Source Ranking
ESPN Scout's Inc. 5 (#1 ILB)
Mel Kiper Jr. 2 (#1 ILB)
Todd McShay 5 (#1 ILB)
Rob Rang 5 (#1 ILB)
Scott Wright 2 (#1 ILB)


By comparison, Collin Klein––by all indications––will be playing tight end or receiver at the next level. If he plays at all.

Johnny Manziel's case is a little but more contentious. The first chapter portends that the rest will be a doozy, but in general, the book has yet to be written on Johnny Football's career. If he wins a second Heisman at some point, it'd be hard for an NFL team to turn him down in the draft.

But for now, his future in the league is up for debate. He's listed at 6'1'' in the Aggies' program, but we all know that not to be the case. I mean, did you see him at the Heisman ceremony? He looked like a little kid who snuck into his daddy's closet and tried on one of his suits. Especially standing next to Collin Klein.

The NFL isn't the "you must be tall to play quarterback" league that it was 10 years ago. Success stories like Drew Brees and Russell Wilson can attest to that. But height certainly doesn't hurt.

But Te'o need not concern himself with such trying matters. He was chiseled by a higher power, specifically for the purpose of playing middle linebacker: 6'1", 248 pounds, top-end speed, off-the-charts instincts, Tebow-esque leadership. The guy's got it all.

So, no: Manti Te'o wasn't able to add a Heisman trophy to his impressive list of football-related hardware. And in a month, there's a good chance he won't be able to lead Notre Dame to a National Championship, either.

But take a picture of his shortcomings while you can, America. Because he won't be down for long.