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New York Jets Should Steer Clear of Drafting Manti Te'o

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 23: Manti Te'o of Notre Dame speaks to the media during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 23, 2013 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Andrew KaufmanSenior Analyst IFebruary 27, 2013

Some NFL team may get a bargain in Manti Te'o in this year's NFL draft, as the linebacker's stock has fallen faster than all but a few players in recent memory.

The New York Jets should not be that team.

Te'o had a fantastic season at Notre Dame, and in all likelihood he is still the complete linebacker he has been cracked up to be. But his two primary weaknesses, foot speed and baggage, are two areas where the Jets currently cannot afford to meddle.

This is not a knock on Te'o. All draft prospects have flaws, and as weird as his soap opera has been over the past few months there are plenty of NFL players with greater transgression on their resumes.

Nor is Te'o's 40-yard dash time, a disappointing 4.82, a lasting indictment of his abilities as a football player. It's just one statistic, and there are plenty of smart defensive players who have succeeded despite lacking the raw speed deemed ideal for their position.

A team like the New England Patriots, with more youth on defense and a great locker room culture, can afford to take a risk on a player like Te'o, with the potential rewards outweighing the limited downside. 

But if there are two things the Jets are currently lacking (yes, besides a quarterback), they are speed on defense and stability in the locker room. At the moment, it doesn't look like Te'o will solve either of those problems. And the downside is currently much less limited in New York.

New York needs replacements, and upgrades, for Bart Scott and Calvin Pace at the linebacker position. Speed is the priority, and players like Barkevious Mingo and Dion Jordan fill that need. Looking at players with baggage whose stock may be falling, Jarvis Jones at least has the athleticism the Jets require.

The Jets also need to make an effort to shake the "circus" label, which is destructive regardless of how accurate it really is. Te'o may be a great person, but he will still command a media swarm.

Te'o represents an interesting value proposition, especially if he falls out of the first round entirely as some analysts are beginning to predict. A smart team will almost certainly take a chance on him.

That team just shouldn't be the Jets.

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