By all accounts, Manti Te’o did a great job off the field at the NFL Combine clearing up any character questions that remained after the bizarre girlfriend hoax story from earlier this year. Conversely, by all accounts, he was not able to turn in as impressive of a performance on the field during drills.
In the marquee events of the combine, the 40 yard dash, Te’o ran just over 4.8 seconds in both attempts despite weighing in at a svelte 241 lbs after playing his senior season around 255. Those two runs combined with the last impression of him on the field in the BCS Championship have his stock tumbling with the draft approaching.
Te’o's 40 time alone doesn’t have his stock falling though. Notre Dame’s most decorated linebacker of all-time didn’t place in the top 5 in any of the events that he participated in. One afternoon of events completed in compression shorts and running shoes shouldn’t outweigh the body of work that Te’o compiled over the last four years in shoulder pads and a helmet, but in a stats driven league, measurables are highly valued.
It wasn’t all bad for Te’o though, he looked comfortable in coverage and showed good hands in the other drills that didn’t measure just straight line speed proving that Te’o is more a football player than an athlete.
There are plenty of examples of players who turned in subpar performances at the Combine and went on to have great NFL careers and conversely there are countless examples of workout warriors who posted eye popping numbers at the Combine only to have mediocre at best NFL careers – I am thinking about you Mike Mamula. However, with concerns raised over Te’o's game from his performance against Alabama and then the off the field stuff, he needed a really strong performance to build some momentum.
That just didn’t happen on the field for the All-American linebacker. Off the field, Te’o reportedly knocked his interviews out of the park. On it though, his performance probably wasn’t enough to push him back towards the top end of the 1st round. Instead, some draft pundits are now wondering if he could fall out of the first round completely.
For instance, some Philadelphia Eagles beat writers have already said that Te’o might not be an option for the Eagles with their 2nd round pick which is #35 overall. As an Eagles fan, I would love to see Te’o fall into the Eagles lap in the second round, especially with the Eagles planning on switching to a 3-4 defense this year under new head coach Chip Kelly but something tells me even with all of the speculation, someone is going to grab Te’o before then.
Manti will get another chance to impress NFL scouts at Notre Dame’s Pro Day on March 26. If he can get his 40 time closer to 4.7 he will start to ease some concerns teams have with him on the field and he could solidify his place in the first round. Considering the exhausting schedule Te’o was on in Indianapolis that included meeting with 20 of the 32 NFL teams and nights that ended as late at 1:00 AM and days that started as early as 4:00 AM, it is very conceivable that he will do just that.
Zeke Motta will run through drills tomorrow with the rest of the defensive back on the last day of the NFL Combine. It is unclear which, if any, drills Jamoris Slaughter will run through tomorrow.
Earlier at the combine, Tyler Eifert was able to impress scouts and now looks like a lock to be a first round selection and the first tight end selected. Meanwhile, Cierre Wood turned in an all around solid performance while Theo Riddick will be looking to improve on his performance at Notre Dame’s Pro Day as well.