Less than 24 hours after charming the media with his smile and willingness to answer tough questions, Notre Dame inside linebacker Manti Te'o once again ranks among the hottest stories among the 2013 NFL draft prep after posting a less-than-impressive 4.82-seconds showing in the all-important 40-yard dash.
The time is significant because one of the critical questions scouts had for Te'o on the field was his ability to beat running backs to the edge. While the Notre Dame star certainly possesses the instincts that make him faster on the field than his 40-yard dash time indicates, the fact that every single running back (though not every fullback) tested in Indiapolis ran faster in this drill than Te'o is not good for his chances at earning a selection in the first round.
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As such Te'o ranks among the clear "losers" in a dramatic day of differentiation among the linebacker class.
First, let's focus on the positive with three linebackers who helped their cause with strong performance in Indianapolis.
- A.J. Klein, Iowa State: Having tied the NCAA record among linebackers with four interceptions returned for touchdowns, Klein has the production on the field to prove he's a top athlete. Some scouts, however, still considered him to be an instinctive player who lacks top-notch athleticism. After taking a spill Monday, Klein will have to wait until his Pro Day to prove it all, but needless to say, the 4.66-seconds showing he had in the 40-yard dash will help dismiss the talk that he is simply an instinctive, try-hard defender.
- Sio Moore, Connecticut: With a 4.65 seconds time in the 40, Moore proved the speed to go along with his instincts that resulted in his posting an eye-popping 43 tackles for loss over the past three years. A standout at the East-West Shrine Game, as well, Moore continued his positive momentum with strong performances in multiple drills in Indianapolis, including the bench press (27 reps) and vertical jump (38").
- Zaviar Gooden, Missouri: Because he is considered by some to be a better athlete than football player, Gooden ranks third on this list but make no mistake about it, scouts can't help but be impressed by the raw athleticism he demonstrated in Indianapolis. Not only did the 6-1, 234-pound Gooden lead all linebackers tested this year with a lightning quick 4.47-seconds showing in the 40, he finished among the position's leaders in virtually every other test, as well.
While it might sound harsh to characterize these athletes as "losers" based on day of workouts, the reality is each prospect did, in fact, disappoint with their performance in Indianapolis. Each will have an opportunity at their respective Pro Days to improve their standings.
Te'o certainly ranks among those who struggled. Unfortunately, there were plenty of others. Notable among them was:
- Damontre Moore, DE/OLB, Texas A&M: While Te'o's fame made him the headliner, the player who could see his stock take the biggest tumble based on his disappointing performance in Indianapolis could be Moore, who proved not only shockingly slow (4.95 in the 40-yard dash) but weak, as well (11 reps). Some had reservations about Moore's upside as he showed more effort than overall athleticism in racking up impressive numbers as both a defensive end (2012) and outside linebacker (2011). Unfortunately, these numbers gave a clear indication why.
- Bruce Taylor, ILB, Virginia Tech: The Hokies typically produce some of the more impressive "testers" each year that certainly wasn't the case with Taylor, who ranked dead last among all traditional linebackers tested in Indianapolis with a time of 5.01 seconds in the 40-yard dash. To put that in perspective, 29 offensive and defensive linemen tested this year at the combine were faster with each of them weighing in significantly more than the 6-1, 237-pound Taylor.
- Keith Pough, OLB, Howard: It is difficult to list any player from Howard here but after dazzling early on in East-West Shrine Game practices, Pough failed to gain momentum with a rather pedestrian performance in the game, itself, and less than eye-popping results in the athletic testing in Indianapolis, including a 4.90 seconds time in the 40-yard dash and a 4.47 seconds showing in the short shuttle, each of which ranked among the worst among all linebackers tested.