Few players have been scrutinized more closely leading up to the 2013 NFL draft than Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, and few players will be followed more closely next Thursday night as the first round progresses.
Nevertheless, you should expect him to go in the first round, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN (via Rotoworld):
ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported on SportsCenter Wednesday that Notre Dame ILB Manti Te'o is widely viewed as a first-round pick inside the NFL.
Mort also mentioned that Te'o "aced" his team interviews at the combine. "At least half the teams in this league have solid first-round grades on Te'o," stated Mortensen. "I have heard 'undersized' a bit. (But) most teams do see that he's going to go somewhere in the first round." ESPN's Mel Kiper listed the Bears, Vikings and Giants as Te'o's likeliest three landing spots on day one.
For most of the season, Te'o's first-round grade seemed obvious. He won a slew of college football awards this season, was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and led Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season and an appearance in the national championship game.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame was crushed by Alabama in that game, 42-14, and Te'o's poor play caused his draft stock to take its first real hit. Then it was revealed he was the victim of a girlfriend hoax and that "Lennay Kekua"—who was believed to have died within hours of the passing of his grandmother in September—did not in fact exist.
It's questionable whether that situation actually hurt his draft stock, but it certainly put him in the spotlight for a rather embarrassing and odd reason.
What did hurt his draft stock was the 4.82-second 40-yard dash he ran at the NFL Scouting Combine. It had many pundits dropping him out of the first round, but Te'o would rectify that concern with a 4.71-second dash time at Notre Dame's pro day, which was more in line with his pre-combine expectations.
In all likelihood, Te'o will likely fall somewhere between the No. 20 pick to the Chicago Bears and the No. 32 pick to the Baltimore Ravens, as both teams are in serious need at linebacker.
It would be very surprising if he went any higher or dropped out of the first round.