Almost everyone except Breitbart Sports readers was stunned when Manti Te’o was not drafted in the first round. On January 18, Breitbart Sports football expert Cole Muzio shocked most by writing “I do not expect that Manti Te’o … will be drafted in the first round.” On February 27, Muzio added, “Te’o is a solid undersized middle linebacker that is a step or two too slow … he is not worth a First Round pick.”
While Te’o slipped several spots after the Alabama game, girlfriend hoax, and slow 40-yard dash, he was still picked to go in the first round by almost everyone else. Breitbart Sports closed by leaving Te’o out of the first round based on ability, but included him at the end based on where teams were apparently telling experts like Mel Kiper where they were taking him.
Which poses the question, why were teams apparently saying they would pick Te’o in the first round if he was available, even though they privately apparently agreed with Muzio’s appraisal of Te’o?
Just before the draft, ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper told the Chicago Sun-Times that he thought Te’o would be similar to four-time Pro Bowler Chris Spielman, certainly worth a first-round pick.
“I just think Chicago is where it’s going to fall,” Kiper said on a recent conference call. “I tried to get him down to Minnesota [at 23rd or 25th] because it makes so much sense. . . . They desperately need a middle linebacker. [They have] a big hole at that position. It would be perfect for what they do there,” Kiper told the Sun-Times Thursday.
While I do not have Muzio’s eye for NFL talent, and see what he sees when he looks at film of high school or college prospects, I have talked to NBA team officials during their draft prep.
One thing that was clear immediately was that there was no incentive to give any information that might help some other team catch onto what they were really thinking. If you believe a guy is perceived as a 30th pick and you think he is actually a steal at 20th, you do not say anything that could lead to the team with the 19th, 18th or 17th pick from getting him first.
By the same token, if you are worried about teams getting a linebacker you really want before you, and you believe the hype surrounding an overrated player like Te’o might make them take him instead, you have very incentive to feed the hype. Many agreed with Kiper that the Bears would take Te’o with their 20th pick or the Vikings would take him at 23rd or 25th.
Would anything have made the Vikings brass more happy than seeing the Bears use their 20th pick on Te’o rather than on getting Kyle Long to stop the Vikings defense from getting to Jay Cutler? The Vikings had three chances to take Te’o at 23rd, 25th or 29th, and clearly they had no interest as they took Sharrif Floyd (defensive tackle), Xavier Rhodes (CB) and Cordarrelle Patterson (WR).
That still left the Rams and Ravens, who both needed linebackers. Instead, they gave the SEC a record-tying 12 first round picks, as the Rams preferred another linebacker – Georgia’s Alec Ogletree – and the Ravens took a safety in Matt Elam from Florida.
Whether or not any team actually thought Te’o would be a first round pick for them is not known, but we do know the teams have no incentive to stop the hype about an overhyped player.