Manti Te'o has some work to do if he hopes to erase from scouts' minds the image of him lumbering around the NFL Scouting Combine like a defensive tackle.
This is just the latest challenge in his bizarre journey.
Let us flash back a few months—prior to Notre Dame getting blown off the field by Alabama in the BCS National Championship.
Te'o and his Fighting Irish teammates were fresh off of an improbable undefeated regular season. More than perhaps any other NCAA athlete, the clean-cut Te'o epitomized success. He was making impact plays week after week and threw himself into the thick of the Heisman race.
At that time, it wasn't unusual to see Te'o in the top ten of mock drafts, as he was nearly universally the first inside linebacker off the board.
Since then, he had a poor showing in the title game, has been all over the news as the main figure in a catfishing saga and underwhelmed at the combine.
The most damaging part of Te'o's combine was undoubtedly his 40-yard dash. He turned in a 4.82 and lacked enough explosion to garner this reaction from Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who happens to need a new middle linebacker:
Speed is important for a middle linebacker, as they have a lot of ground to cover. A 4.82 suggests that Te'o is not an every-down linebacker in the NFL, as many of his peers ran sub-4.7 40's.
While he would still be able to effectively make plays in the run game, he would be way to big a liability in pass defense to leave him during pass situations.
That is not the kind of speed Te'o will need to keep up with tight ends or running backs, or quickly close in zone coverages.
That is not the kind of player who typically gets drafted in the first round and, as of now, very few mock drafts have him going off the board on Thursday.
However, all hope is not lost for Te'o's draft status. He still has Notre Dame's March 26 Pro Day.
If Te'o wants any chance of going in the first round, or even the first half of the second, he has to lower that 40-time.
This certainly isn't out of the realm of possibility. While other players were busy preparing for the combine, Te'o was on the talk-show circuit and, even when he wasn't busy with media obligations, it is safe to assume he was a little distracted.
Now, with some distance from the controversy, Te'o should have more time and energy to train, which should only help him improve on his combine showing. His draft stock is in desperate need of a strong showing to rebound from recent issues troubling Te'o.
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