Sputtering superstar Manti Te'o's 40-yard dash time at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine didn't impress many, but that won't have an effect on his draft stock.
Desperate to put the now-famous "girlfriend" incident behind him, Te'o came to the combine with a chance to excel and show that he was still one of the top prospects at the draft—something that many will say he failed to do with a sluggish 4.82 seconds in the dash.
Running 7.13 seconds in the three-cone drill and chalking up 33 repetitions in the bench press didn't exactly set the world on fire in Indianapolis, either.
Yet despite the slow times and the less-than-impressive reactions that some had to the time, the truth is that Te'o's 40-yard dash time is not what he should be judged on. It's not what scouts should be or will be basing their assessments on coming out of the combine, and the same should apply with Te'o here.
After all, it is just one sprint.
Much like his 2012-13 season wasn't judged on one poor showing in the BCS Championship Game against Alabama, so, too, his 4.82 time shouldn't be what his future NFL stock is judged on. That should take the athleticism into the equation, sure, but it should also consider how he plays the position, the success at the position and how teams that he's on respond because of it.
His draft stock should be judged on his plethora of tackles and interceptions, and his ability to cause the other team's quarterback to make bad throws in the pocket. Te'o should be judged on his ability to successfully call pre-snap plays and shut down the run when it's coming at him, as well as the success of his team in 2012 as a result of those actions.
And if we're doing that, it is hard to find too many faults in a guy who led the Fighting Irish to the Championship Game—something few would have predicted.
Getting beat by an NFL-caliber offensive line in that game didn't cancel out his 2012-13 success, and neither should his 40-yard dash time at the combine.
According to Dan Pompei at The Chicago Tribune, it won't.
Here is what a few general managers are saying about Manti Te'o after his combine performance: They are not alarmed.
In fact, four GMs said Te'o helped himself with solid interviews. They also believe his 4.82 40-yard dash time is not a great indicator of how he plays. "If a middle linebacker runs a 4.82 but he is instinctive and quick in a short area, the 40-yard dash time doesn't matter," one AFC general manager said.
"At that position what matters is they are productive and make plays." Ultimately what should carry the evaluation of Te'o is his body of work.
"I think a lot has been blown out of proportion with Manti," Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "We have to depend mostly on our evaluation on what he did on the field. We talk to them about off-field issues, take psychological inventories, and find out as much as we can. But at some point you can talk yourself out of some good football players with too much information. We try not to do that. We don't put our head in the sand, but we don't overanalyze the information we get either."
Having said all of that, the biggest takeaway from the combine and Manti Te'o should be that he struggled to come up big when he needed to most.
The BCS title game showed Te'o crumbling under pressure; the immediate interviews regarding his fake girlfriend story showed him doing the same.
And now this combine showed the linebacker running 0.15 slower than what he has been recorded running over the dash (per NFL Draft Scout).
If that is going to be a consistent issue with Te'o, then that should affect his draft stock. He shouldn't be taken in the first round and he shouldn't be given special considerations every time he churns out a poor performance on the field—or off it, as we've seen so far.
If Te'o has an inability to be consistent and step up in big moments, then he will not be a first-round pick. But based on what we've seen so far, there's simply no way of knowing that until the moment actually comes and the Notre Dame star shows what he is capable of.
One slow 40-yard dash time doesn't eradicate a full year of success; nor does it hamper his draft stock looking forward to the 2013 NFL Draft.
As Chris Wesseling at NFL.com concludes:
Even if Te'o is given the benefit of the doubt on instincts and short-area quickness, it's fair to wonder if questionable athleticism will push him into the second round.
Whereas last year's No. 9 overall pick Luke Kuechly blazed a 4.58 40-yard dash, James Laurinaitis and Rey Maualuga dropped out of the first round after clocking in just under 4.80 in 2009. If teams conclude that Te'o can't play all three downs, he's likely to fall in line with the latter two.
Just which category Te'o will fall into still remains to be seen, but based on the combine he's had, it's hard to see teams willing to let him fall into the second round.
Especially given the success he already has behind him.
Where do you think Manti Te'o will get drafted in the 2013 NFL Draft?
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