Second Round, 38th Pick
One of the most polarizing characters in the NFL draft, Manti Te’o entered the season as one of the top linebacker prospects in the country. A roller coaster of a year ensued for Te’o—from the highs of being a Heisman finalist and helping lead Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season to the lows of being embarrassed by Alabama in the BCS National Championship and the bizarre saga of Lennay Kekua.
+ Reads run keys well
+ Aggressive taking blocks on
- Lunging tackler
- Lacks elite athleticism
Tools ( + )
Te’o’s NFL combine workout was average by most standards. While he disappointed with a 4.82-second 40-yard dash, his 7.13 Three-Cone and 4.27 20 Yard Shuttle times were both good for sixth among linebackers.
Te’o’s leadership, intangibles, character and ability to compartmentalize were played up during Notre Dame’s run to the BCS National Championship and his Heisman campaign. The LennayKekua scandal left more questions than answers as to Te’o’s intangibles and character. Strictly on the field, Te’o has always been a second-round talent and figures to still be selected in that range now that the visage of leadership has been removed from his stock.
Te’o played inside linebacker in a true two-gapping 3-4 defense while at Notre Dame. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco really played to Te’o’s strengths, allowing him to attack the run downhill quickly and letting him play a lot of Robber coverage to protect him in space.
Pass Coverage ( - )
Te’o isn’t an elite athlete and will need to be protected in coverage, but he has baseline coverage skills to be an inside linebacker in the NFL. Having recorded zero interceptions prior to his senior season, Te’o apparently made pass coverage his top priority entering the year, and it paid off with a seven-interception season.
He'll need to be protected schematically in coverage since he lacks the ability to run with great athletes at tight end and running back in space, but he is capable of dropping into zones and covering shorter areas. He played a lot of short zone and robber coverages over the middle, allowing him to read the quarterback’s eyes and try to break on the ball.
Te’o has recorded 8.5 sacks over his career (5 in 2011). He isn’t used extensively as a pass-rusher, but Notre Dame uses him intelligently, getting him clear runs at the quarterback on his blitzes.
Rush Defense ( + )
Te’o is a violent player between the tackles. He looks to deliver the blow and take blockers on violently, but struggles to disengage once contact is established. He takes tight angles to the ball, but he does tend to hesitate when forced to change direction or alter his pursuit path.
Read and React ( + )
Te’o is excellent at reading misdirection and man-blocking run schemes that feature pulling guards. Zone-blocking schemes that force him to slow play the runner give him more problems, as it gives him offensive linemen. He has a tendency to get frozen and stuck in no-man’s land against the play-action pass. Te’o does well working through traffic between the tackles, but he ends up on the ground almost every time trash is around his feet. His game lacks burst in terms of closing speed.
Tackling ( - )
Much like his block deconstruction, Te’o’s tackling against the run can be described as aggressive but reckless. He’s capable of physically stunning ball-carriers but has a tendency to get out of control and attempt lunging tackles.
According to public perception and media coverage, Te’o’s stock has been more volatile than any player’s in this draft. Although he was billed as a top-five selection during the season and his Heisman campaign, Te’o’s talent has always been that of a second round, thumping middle linebacker with range and coverage limitations in the mold of Curtis Lofton, Rey Maualuga and Paul Posluszny.
He measured in smaller than his listed size of 6’3" and 255 pounds, but he does have the experience and physicality necessary to play in a 3-4 scheme.
All video used courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com