Lions host Manti Te'o for pre-draft visit
Few players in the history of the NFL Draft have received as much attention as Manti Te'o during the draft process. Te'o, the 2012 Heisman Trophy runner-up, is looking to defy his critics as the process winds down. The former Notre Dame middle linebacker visited with the Detroit Lions on Tuesday. Former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest says Te'o has improved vastly over the last month.
Manti Te'o's stock has fluctuated between a late-first and second-round pick amongst the litany of mock drafts that have been published in recent weeks.
If the former Notre Dame middle linebacker is selected by the Detroit Lions, he will almost certainly last beyond the opening night of this month’s NFL Draft. Te’o visited the Lions Tuesday at the team’s facility in Allen Park, Mich., according to DetroitLions.com. After a 4-12 finish in 2012, the Lions have the No. 5 overall pick in the first round.
Te’o, the 2012 Maxwell, Chuck Bednarik and Walter Camp Award winner, is intent on proving that he’s a three-down linebacker in the pros. During Te’o’s draft training at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., he has worked on improving his technique when forced to shed blockers on the second-level. In 2012, Te’o set the Notre Dame single-season record for interceptions with seven. The interception total was the highest by a linebacker in FBS since 2001.
“I can always get better and I’m going to get better, but if anyone questioned my ability to cover, I had seven interceptions,” Te’o told DetroitLions.com. “That should say, ‘Hey, he has the ability to play three-down football.'"
Lions veteran Stephen Tulloch has started all 32 regular-season games at middle linebacker for Detroit since signing with the team in 2011. Te’o appears to be a better fit with the Bears and Vikings -- two NFC North teams that have a pressing need at middle linebacker. Minnesota is looking for a replacement for Jasper Brinkley after the former South Carolina linebacker signed with the Cardinals last month. The Bears added D.J. Williams to potentially replace Brian Urlacher, but the former Broncos’ linebacker will turn 31 in July. Tulloch is signed with the Lions through 2016.
Former Patriots two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Willie McGinest has worked extensively with Te’o throughout the draft process. McGinest indicated that Te’o has looked more assertive in a number of drills since a subpar performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.
“We worked him out at the Combine but when we went down to Florida to work him out, he just seemed a little more explosive,” McGinest told NFL AM. “He seemed like his hips were loose and he was able to get out of those breaks. We did some individual cone drills and some explosive stuff. It seemed like all those things people said he wasn’t that good (at), he vastly improved in. He looked more relaxed.”
Detroit also met with former Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack and former Crimson Tide cornerback Dee Milliner on Monday. Milliner could help a Lions’ pass defense that ranked 25th in interception rate last season. The addition of Warmack could help revitalize Detroit’s aging offensive line.
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