Manti Te'o: Breaking Down How National Championship Game Will Affect Draft Stock

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

SOUTH BEND, IN - NOVEMBER 17:  Manti T'eo #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish encourages the crowd to cheer during a game against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at Notre Dame Stadium on November 17, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 38-0.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Manti Te'o is likely focused on winning the national championship, but what he does in the game will go a long way towards determining his stock for the 2013 NFL draft.

The Notre Dame linebacker is already one of the top prospects in football. He has built up great statistics and is recognized as the leader of one of the top defenses in the country.

However, professional teams want to see what players can do against top competition. He will not have any better competition than in his last career game against Alabama.

These are the things that scouts will focus on during the BCS National Championship Game. 

Shedding Blockers

Alabama succeeds in part by utilizing one of the best offensive lines in the nation. The squad had two interior linemen—Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones—named first-team All-Americans.

Both of these players could be drafted in the first round of the NFL draft.

If either of the talented run blockers get to the second level, Te'o must prove that he can make plays against linemen of this caliber. He will need to quickly get rid of his blocker and find the ball-carrier.

The linebacker has done a great job of this all year, but it will be tougher against the Tide. With that being said, the ability to take on blockers is something that separates good players at the position from the best.

Showing Range

Once again, Te'o has impressed all season with his speed and his ability to track down running backs.

However, Alabama has two running backs that have already topped 1,000 yards on the season and are very difficult to take down.

Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon are incredibly quick, and the entire Notre Dame defense must stay awake at all times to avoid giving up a big play to either runner.

The Notre Dame defense had solid performances against top running backs like Stepfan Taylor of Stanford and Le'Veon Bell of Michigan State, but the two-headed attack of Alabama could be a challenge.

In addition, the senior will be judged not only individually, but against his competition at the position. 

Fellow middle linebacker prospect Alec Ogletree of Georgia was able to get 11 total tackles in the loss to Alabama, so Te'o must be able to come close to matching this production.


One of the most important jobs of a middle linebacker is to be a leader of a defense. He must keep his team pumped up for every play, while also making sure that each player stays composed.

Manti Te'o has done a great job this year, but his team has not faced competition quite like Alabama.

If the Irish go down by a few touchdowns early, it will be interesting to see how the entire team reacts. The squad has come back from a deficit before, but it has never been trailing by too much to see the team struggle emotionally. 

Scouts will certainly watch what the Hawaii native does at all times during the game, including on the sidelines. He must show his true character as a leader if he is needed to motivate his teammates.


Most likely, the talented player will be able to pass these tests with flying colors in the biggest game of his career.

He will almost certainly be a first-round pick. However, a great game could allow him to be drafted as early as the Top Five. On the other hand, a poor performance in this matchup could see him fall into the teens and possibly later.

There is a lot of time until draft day, but a big bowl game like this one can go a long way towards determining a prospect's stock. Hopefully for Te'o and his fans, he will come through in a big way against Alabama.