Months removed from the bizarre story of Lennay Kekua, the fabricated girlfriend of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, the dust has settled and teams are judging the Heisman Trophy finalist for his football skills. However, he hasn't received rave reviews and may not be worth a first-round pick in the eyes of many talent evaluators, according to Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports.
While it only requires one team to pull the trigger and take Te'o in the first 32 picks, Cole cited the opinions of five anonymous NFL personnel who each said that their respective teams wouldn't be the ones to do so. Although none of the personnel said that Te'o is a bad player, a couple said that he simply doesn't have the world-class talent that you expect from a first-round linebacker.
"I think he can play and he can help your defense," an AFC head coach said. "But he's a two-down player on a good team. He's not a star. If I'm taking a linebacker in the first round, I want a guy who can change my defense. Trust me, I've been wrong about linebackers before, but this guy doesn't fit the bill of what I spend a high pick on."
Te'o, 22, helped himself at the Notre Dame Pro Day by improving his 40-yard dash time by nearly two-tenths of a second and finished with 21 bench press reps; however, the question is his up-side. Does he have the raw physical skill-set to be a very good player in the NFL? In Cole's report, another coach said Te'o doesn't.
"No, he's not good enough in my view. Now, I say that and we haven't finalized our board yet. But with the upside that I see and the needs that we have just on defense alone, I wouldn't recommend that," the defensive coordinator said. "If I'm taking an inside linebacker in the first round, I want a big, intimidating hitter who can play all three downs. I want a Patrick Willis or a NaVorro Bowman. Te'o is not in their class, not by a long shot."
In the latest 2013 NFL Draft rankings from SB Nation's Dan Kadar, Te'o ranks as the second best interior linebacker in the class, behind only Kansas State's Arthur Brown, and is No. 29 on the big board of all players. However, in the latest mock draft from Kadar and Matthew Fairburn, Te'o doesn't land in the first round.