Before the January 7th BCS National Championship Game, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o looked like a top-5 NFL draft pick. He was resilient, skilled, and a potential cornerstone for any NFL franchise. His on-field performance was stellar, his character and leadership unquestioned, and his story compelling. Now, nine days after seeing Te’o and the Notre Dame defense get carved up by the Alabama Crimson Tide, the fundamental assumptions about Te’o have been shaken to the core with the revelation of the hoax surrounding the existence of his “girlfriend."
Following the national title game that saw Te’o struggle to handle an offense that featured bigger, stronger, and faster players, it was clear that his draft stcok was set to plummet. My initial thought was that he had slid out of the top 10, and would need a good all-star week and strong showings at the combine and interviews to stay in the top 15.
With the shocking, disturbing, and confusing story which first appeared on Deadspin.com, Te’o’s draft stock is in a free fall. Regardless of how this story turns out, I feel confident in saying this: Manti Te’o will not be drafted in the first round.
At the very best, this story is weird, abnormal, and unsettling. For NFL organizations who’ve learned how to evaluate drug and legal issues, low Wonderlic tests, health concerns, and a host of other issues, the spectre of an unknown, unquantifiable, and flat out strange issue will cause Te’o to plummet.
Beyond that, there are too many unknowns.
The worst case scenario for Te’o comes if, as implied by Deadspin, he was a part of the hoax. If that is the case, I can say with near certainty that he will not be drafted and may not receive an invitation to join an NFL team as an undrafted free agent.
The best case scenario for Te’o comes if it is proven that he never met with anyone, actually carried on conversations over the phone with a woman who pretended to be his girlfriend, and can be cleared of any attempt to mislead the public or be a part of a hoax.
When the best situation you can hope for proves that you are socially awkward, likely emotionally needy, foolish, unintelligent, and utterly naive, your NFL Draft stock is pretty darn low.
I cannot remember a weirder story, and I’m certain this story will never “make sense” and has many strange twists and turns ahead. While those turns may improve Te’o’s standing with NFL scouts and decision makers (which is incredibly low at the moment), there is not a scenario where this plays out well for the Notre Dame linebacker.