Just how much will the Notre Dame linebacker's situation impact his path to the NFL?
Unless he's proven complicit as part of a bizarre dead-girlfriend hoax, the NFL Draft stock of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o should go unaffected. The story has to play itself out, of course, but the hoax doesn't leave Te'o's draft stock in question. It merely leaves it in confusion.
This isn't necessarily an issue for general managers and scouting departments. For most, the on-field evaluation of Te'o is already complete. NFL teams have security that does background checks on players leading up to the draft. Now they'll just have to put in some extra time figuring Te'o out. They'll present information to the personnel department, who will hold numerous interviews with Te'o between now and the draft.
Regardless of how this unfolds, expect Te'o to still be taken in the first round. His draft ceiling could be the Buffalo Bills with the eighth pick. That's where Mel Kiper of ESPN put him in his mock draft. We've had Te'o being picked in the teens consistently.
The NFL won't care about the conjecture or various conspiracy theories. They'll be intrigued, unquestionably. This is a strange tale. But unless this story hangs over Te'o, as it may have in the BCS National Championship Game, the impact on Te'o's draft position is negligible.
The much-overrated 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine next month will matter more. Te'o not participating in next week's Senior Bowl is even more damning to his mid to late first-round status.
Te'o may be training at the vaunted IMG Academy in Florida, but he's probably learning more how to answer questions than how to run faster. By the time Te'o starts talking to NFL teams, his agent Tom Condon will already have him well-rehearsed in how to answer any question presented. A media throng will attempt to pick and poke at Te'o for 10 minutes at the NFL Combine, but his ready-made answers will be groan-worthy, at best.
In regard to where a player is picked, the NFL cares almost solely about on-field acumen and accomplishment. It's why running back Lawrence Phillips was the sixth pick of the 1996 draft despite being arrested for assaulting an ex-girlfriend. Conversely, it's why Vontaze Burfict went undrafted last year following a junior season clouded in questionable effort and on-field attitude.
Perhaps, as Dan Wetzel of Yahoo! Sports suggests, Te'o embellished his story to an eager media. But that doesn't mean he's a bad football player. It just means he's a sort of weird 21-year-old guy. That won't stop a team from taking him early in April.