Notre Dame Pro Day: Give Te'o his due, but keep 40 in perspective

By Jeff Reynolds | NFLDraftScout.com

As expected, Manti Te'o was more comfortable playing on his home field.

NFLDraftScout.com's second-ranked inside linebacker (39th overall prospect) showed improved speed at Notre Dame's pro day in South Bend, Ind., on Tuesday, recording unofficial 40 times of 4.72 and 4.75 to slice one-tenth of a second off of his pedestrian 4.81 clocking at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis one month ago.

That doesn't mean he's a lock to be drafted in the first round, top 40 or by the Bears or Ravens as others speculate. Keep the sprint in shorts in perspective. In the end, Tuesday's 4.75 seconds is a tiny data point in Te'o's lengthy final evaluation. To suggest, as some have, that Te'o moved up 15 spots in the draft with that improved -- but still average -- effort is unrealistic.

"Forget all the noise, he is what he is, a good football player but he'll never make a Pro
Bowl," one scout in attendance wrote in a text message to NFLDraftScout.com.

Te'o has seen his draft stock put through a simulated spin cycle by media types over the past 100 days. Scouts didn't give Te'o a down arrow, so much as they hit the pause botton and retraced their previous evaluations to research and review whether emotional, psychological and production grades were real or imagined.

One of the most scrutinized players in the 2013 NFL Draft class, Te'o was considered a first-round pick in 2011 as a junior. He opted to return to school and was an All-American for the Fighting Irish, who went undefeated to reach the BCS national championship game against Alabama.

Te'o's poor performance in that game, coupled with the international news story of Te'o being tricked into falling for a girl who didn't exist by childhood friends, put him under the microscope with media and virtually everyone with an opinion.

Speed remains a concern for scouts -- there is no questioning he was a step slow and lost almost every fight at the point of attack with Alabama guard Chance Warmack in the BCS title game -- who also need to be confident Te'o will hold up to any potential for harsh treatment from teammates and the emotional toll of being in the spotlight -- for many reasons -- as a professional.

NFLDraftScout.com projects Te'o as a top-40 pick. Teams in the first round with the most glaring need are Chicago (20th overall) and Baltimore (32nd). The Bears signed veteran D.J. Williams as a possible replacement for Brian Urlacher, but Williams would be considered a stopgap at best. The Ravens' need arises upon losing Ray Lewis (retirement) and Dannell Ellerbe (free agent) from their Super Bowl-winning defense.

Timed speed isn't the only indicator of NFL greatness, though Urlacher (4.5 at 6-4, 260) and Patrick Willis (4.38) are examples of great players who had excellent speed. Both inside linebackers were top-15 draft picks.

Te'o could be a first-round pick, but is far from a lock.

Rams linebacker James Laurinaitis, a second-round pick out of Ohio State, ran a 4.82 40 at the during his combine drills.

Vontaze Burfict, a starter for the Bengals last season after running a 5.1 in Indianapolis and going undrafted, are examples of production and instincts being more important measures than straight-line speed in short and T-shirts.

For more NFL draft news and analysis, follow Jeff Reynolds on Twitter at @ReynoldsJD.

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