The last couple of months have been a nightmare for former Notre Dame star linebacker Manti Te’o. Prior to the 2013 BCS National Championship, Te’o, also a Heisman finalist, was seen as a Top 10-talent for the upcoming 2013 NFL Draft.
He took steps to improve his image in interviews and did a decent job during the 20-yard shuffle, three cone drill and the vertical jump at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine, but all of that very well could have been overshadowed by his embarrassing tumble and terrible 40-time (4.80 and 4.81). He also measured at 6’1″ and 241 pounds—one inch shorter and 14 pounds lighter than his listing on Notre Dame’s roster.
Plenty of teams around the NFL could consider the middle linebacker from the No. 20 to No. 40 overall pick next month.
Though the top priority this offseason for the Houston Texans will be picking up a new No. 2 receiver to line up opposite Andre Johnson, Houston could be one of those teams looking at Te’o as the club will also have its sights set on selecting a linebacker early in the draft.
Texans defensive end Antonio Smith said that if his team took a chance on the Heisman runner-up, Te’o would need to be prepared for more than the normal rookie hazing we say around the league.
“Our locker room is full of clowns and, oh, man people would kill him. I mean he would be the butt of every joke for at least two, three years,” Smith told Pro Football Talk on NBC Sports Network Tuesday.
The former 2004 fifth-round pick (No. 135 overall) out of Oklahoma State spent his first five seasons in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals (2004-08), racking up a total of 125 tackles, 14.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 62 games (39 starts).
In 2009, he took his talents to Houston, where he’s spent the last four years, registering 127 tackles, 22.0 sacks and seven forced fumbles in 64 games (63 starts). The 6-4, 284-pound veteran defensive end totaled 30 tackles (24 tackles for loss) with 7.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery last year.
Smith, 31, added that Te’o needs to show he can laugh it off when people inevitably make jokes about him.
“You just got to be a good sport, man, it is what it is and you know it is out now, it’s out in the papers and on TV, so all you can do now, you can’t worry about it, you can’t change it, all you can do now is laugh—laugh with us while we’re laughing at you,” Smith said.
Judging by John Harbaugh’s head-shaking, it appears that the Baltimore Ravens won’t be banging the table for Te’o with the last pick of the first round on draft day. It would be better for the Irish’s former star linebacker if he went to a team in a smaller market than a team like the Denver Broncos, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and New York Giants, anyway.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated suggests that Te’, who would fit best behind a ferocious defensive line as the “Mike” in a 4-3 front, won’t get past the the No. 21 pick in the first round. The Cincinnati Bengals might be the best place for Te’o, though he could get picked just before the Bengals at the No. 19 spot by the Chicago Bears.
It will be interesting to see how Te’o handles everything at his Pro Day on March 26.
Let’s give the kid a break until then… after all his girlfriend just died…
Michael Gartman is a College Football and NFL Senior Writer, the AFC South and NFC West Lead Writer and the Founder, CEO of GridironGrit.com. He’s also about to start reporting on topics across all sides of the political spectrum and analyze important issues in the liberty movement for a political website. Follow him @_MichaelGartman on Twitter. Be sure to ‘like’ Gridiron Grit on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @GridironGrit to keep up with the latest coverage on college football, the NFL and more!