2013 NFL Draft: Manti Te'o Scouting Report
Manti Te'o went from frontrunner to win the Heisman Trophy, to media darling, to the butt of all jokes within the matter of a couple short months. This is what American culture does the best; lift people up and then tear them down.
This also caused certain experts to rip into Te'o the player without even as much as looking at tape. They took the Catfish Scandal as an opportunity to critique every single possible aspect of his game at Notre Dame.
Yes, you could easily say that he is one of the most divisive prospects in the entire draft.
Today's scouting reports is going to be just that; a scouting report. eDraft will focus on Te'o's strengths and weaknesses without taking a look at what "plagues" him off the field. We will draw a conclusion about his ability to transition to the NFL and where he fits best, at least in terms of his draft slot.
Lets take a gander.
Late First-Early Second
Instincts: Te'o already plays like an NFL-caliber linebacker when it comes to natural instincts before and during a play. He will not take himself out of plays or make the wrong determination pre snap. Instead, Te'o tends to understand where a play is going and act on it. This is evident by the high number of tackle totals he has tallied and that he is in on nearly every play.
Technique: Leverage at the point of contact. Te'o will rarely get thrown back by a blocker or runner between the hashes. He utilizes solid lower-body control and a great build to take down the ball carrier. His pass-coverage skills, while lacking a bit, don't bring bad technique with them. He can learn how/when to actually play over the top or drop back in zone.
Tackling: Again, it is all about technique. Te'o stays low on his tackle, which enables him to drive the ball carrier to the ground without being pushed back. While he does struggle in wide open areas, Te'o is best between the hashes when he doesn't have to shed blocks. His tackling grades out at 95-percent compared to other inside linebacker prospects.
Intelligence/Leadership: Probably his two best attributes and they go hand in hand. Te'o is the quarterback of the defense. He can call pre-snap audibles, makes sure the front seven is set and recognizes what is happening throughout the game before most other defenders do. While this will not show up on tape or on the boxscore, it is huge in the grand scheme of things. More importantly, Te'o acts the part of a true leader on the football field. He plays with a ton of passion and heart; something that cannot be taught.
Speed: I could care less that Te'o ran a slow 40 at the combine or was a bit quicker at Notre Dame's Pro Day on Tuesday. His 40 time means ABSOLUTELY nothing. That being said, Te'o doesn't have the greatest field speed. He will not go sideline-to-sideline in a heart beat and struggles stringing out plays to the outside. In order for Te'o to be successful in the NFL, he will need a speedier linebacker to run with.
Coverage: Te'o lacks the athleticism and natural coverage ability that form the best inside linebackers in the NFL. Teams will not be able to line him up one-on-one against some of the better running backs and tight ends in the league. This just isn't his game. Defenses will have to mask this by playing two deep over the top and providing a safety as a counter threat to offenses going after Te'o in coverage. He is decent in press, but horrible when asked to play off man.
Shedding Blocks: While Te'o is great in terms of taking down the receiver or ball carrier, he struggles getting past gap-blocking schemes at the line and will not be able shed the blocks of stronger offensive lineman when attempting to hit the offensive backfield. Much like Luke Kuechly last season, Te'o is more of a beyond-the-scrimmage backer, meaning that he will rarely penetrate the offensive backfield.
I refused to really drop Te'o too much after a "poor" combine performance. Those generic drills just didn't seem to fit his skill sets all too well. Instead, what you see in live-game action is what should draw you to him as a prospect. He is a gamer, simply put. He is technically sound, intelligent and a true leader. Where he might lack in terms of athletic ability, he more than makes up for in understanding the nuances of the game. In this, I would compare him to Brian Urlacher when he came out of New Mexico.
Te'o will not be the cornerstone of a great defense. Instead, a team looking to fill a hole on the inside will be able to count on him to be a damn good football player for a decade or so. He isn't your average linebacker, but he isn't an All-Pro in the making either. The best fits for Te'o seem to be the Chicago Bears and Baltimore Ravens.