Report: Manti Te'o off at least one team's draft board

By Ryan Wilson |

Will Manti Te'o be a first-rounder? Does it matter? (USATSI)
In two days, when the 2013 NFL Draft gets underway, we'll no longer have to guess what the market is for Manti Te'o. The former Notre Dame linebacker was considered a top-five pick early in his senior season. Then a poor showing against Alabama in the national championship game coupled with the news that he had a fake, dead Internet girlfriend sent his draft stock tumbling. That was the perception, anyway.

In reality, Te'o still could be a first-round pick. A handful of analysts and scouts thought so after Te'o's pro day in late March, although now, two days out from the draft, obfuscation rules and it's almost impossible to differentiate smoke screens from truth.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Bob McGinn spoke to scouts for the latest on Te'o. Overall, the reviews were positive:

"In the grand scheme of it, yeah, he's a pretty good player. He's a second-round talent," one scout told McGinn.

"I think he's everything you need in a 'mike' backer," another scout added. "He plays sideline to sideline. He plays faster than the timed speed. He's able to key and diagnose quickly. And he's hungry."

"Probably didn't make as many tackles as A.J. (Hawk), but I don't see a big difference," a third scout observed. "Notre Dame put their reputation on this kid, and I don't think they would have if he wasn't a hell of a kid."

But it's this next comment that will likely catch people's attention.

"We've kind of taken him off the board," another scout told McGinn. "He doesn't have enough ability to put up with all that. Why fool with it? Try-hard, smart (Wonderlic of 23) guy. This was the first year he's really gotten himself in shape. Some of his teammates think he's kind of a phony."

Who knows what to make of the assessment at this point in the proceedings. There's some truth to the idea that Te'o could find himself the butt of jokes from new teammates, but McGinn lists Te'o as the second-best inside linebacker in the draft behind Georgia's Alec Ogletree, and three of the six draft experts have Te'o going to the Vikings with the 25th overall pick.

While scouts have input in the player evaluation process, ultimately, the decisions are made by coaches and front-office types. Which brings us back to something Giants general manager Jerry Reese said in March.

"We have to depend mostly on our evaluation on what (Te'o) did on the field," he said at the time. "We talk to them about off-field issues, take psychological inventories and find out as much as we can. But at some point, you can talk yourself out of some good football players with too much information."

We'll know exactly what this means for Te'o by the weekend.

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