Monday, February 25, 2013

Vikings Should Pass on Manti Te'o

Daniel House analyzes how Manti Te'o lowered his draft stock today and why

the Vikings should avoid the disgruntled linebacker.

Over the next few weeks, Manti Te'o will be a popular name when it comes to projections and mock drafts. The fantasy of a player that has been brought to the spotlight through a girlfriend hoax. He didn't commit a crime, but he performed an embarrassing act that has caused turmoil for him during the NFL Scouting Combine. It will continue during the coming months and will be a main storyline for this draft class.  As posted in our latest mock draft, I explained my thoughts on the Vikings possible selection at pick 23. I suggested that the Vikings should take a long look at Te'o based upon his success at Notre Dame. Statistically he was sound at Notre Dame and was the first FBS linebacker since 2001 to record 7 interceptions. After watching the BCS National Championship game, I became skeptical of whether he had the talent to contribute in the NFL. After only recording 10 tackles, including 7 assists and only 3 solo tackles, scouts and NFL officials became skeptical.

Another major red flag was thrown when the alleged girlfriend "hoax" was revealed to the media. It became a national sensation and was the main story on every news channel in America. Even Dr. Phil and Katie Couric were intrigued and ran stories and interviews involving the phenomenon. I'm not as worried about the alleged girlfriend scandal, but it will be a distraction for the team he is selected by in April. Much like when he was interviewed at the combine, he will have 300 media members with microphones and questions ready. These crews will flurry for the moment he sets foot on an NFL playing surface and will continue to ask the waning question about if he can "fit" in the locker room. I wish we as the media would let all the drama subside and focus on his abilities on the field. Ultimately this league is a business and will always revolve around the play on the field. Despite the distraction, I think teams are starting to move on and focus closer at his play on the field.

My analysis of his workout at the combine was an exact opposite depiction of his play on the field this season. I was hoping to see more speed, but I was only awarded with a 4.82, which isn't fast enough for me. Our defensive scheme requires our linebackers to be athletic and to cover burly tight ends and running backs. One of our weaknesses last season, was our inability to cover the running backs and tight ends. In the Wild Card playoff game at Green Bay, Dajuan Harris shredded our defense and exploited our weakness. The Packers didn't move the ball as much through the vertical passing game, but beat us through short intermediate passes to the running backs and tight ends. Especially in the form of tight end and running back screens in the middle of the field. Even when wide receivers were isolated in the flat, we struggled to communicate and properly cover the schematics of the adversary. I feel like Te'o isn't the skill set we are looking for at the linebacker position. Te'o is the type of player that will record tackles, but will struggle when teams exploit his speed and agility. Specifically in the agility category, I was very surprised to see him struggle at changing directions around the "pursuit" drill. He stumbled several times and had trouble cutting with a fierce edge. As NFL Network's Mike Mayock suggested, Te'o must run under a 4.7 in the 40 yard dash to be considered as a 1st round pick. The camera then zoned in on Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh who in a disappointed facial expression, mouthed 4.83. His face showed that his draft stock had significantly plummeted.

Someone in the bottom of the first round or early in the second will take a chance on Te'o, but his stock certainly won't be rising any time soon. I feel like the negatives overcome the positives when it comes to Manti Te'o. He has proven that he is a "ball-hawk" and a tackler, but displayed this at the college level. The speed of the NFL is an entirely different kind and requires athletes to play at every position. This is the phase I feel Te'o is missing and that will scare many NFL teams away. The game of football in the NFL requires speed and agility and this is certainly an area that Te'o was missing today. In addition, the drama of the girlfriend "hoax" will add to the drama of drafting Te'o. Many teams including the Vikings want focus and certainly won't receive this for the first few days of training camp if they select Te'o. Focus was golden for  the Vikings last season and was one of the key reasons I believe we were successful. In 2009 and 2010 we were dealing with "Favre-Watch" and the drama that surrounded Brett Favre joining our favorite football team. In 2011, we dealt with the NFL lockout and a shorter offseason for rookies. Finally in 2012, we had zero distractions and were able to focus 100% of our mental capacity on football and rebuilding our roster. Do we really want to bring in the drama that will surround Te'o in 2013? I think we have better options and I will profile those soon.

I'm not of the belief that we need to address linebacker immediately in the draft. In the second or third round we can find a developmental type linebacker. I'm starting to think we may look wide receiver based upon the athleticism at the position this year. This will all be answered once free agency begins and we find out the path the Vikings are heading. If they resign Percy Harvin, they will sign a wide receiver, but if they target Greg Jennings or Mike Wallace, they may be able to wait until later in the draft to pursue wide receiver. There are many questions marks, but I believe one answer was solidified today, Manti Te'o isn't as great as we first thought.

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