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Slow, Small And Stupid: Manti Te'o Should Not Be A First-Round Pick

David Tobia |
February 27, 2013 | 4:07 p.m. PST

Staff Writer


Manti Te'o excelled in pass coverage in college, but the NFL could be a different story. (Hoosierguy Jeff/Creative Commons)
Manti Te'o excelled in pass coverage in college, but the NFL could be a different story. (Hoosierguy Jeff/Creative Commons)
Since the end of the NCAA football season, we've had so many real stories to read about that we almost forgot about our favorite clueless football player Manti Te'o. But now he's back in the headlines for being bad and slow, so let's pay him another visit!

Now the general consensus is Manti got duped by some weirdo who's really good at making girl noises on the phone. Whatever. So either Manti actually orchestrated the whole thing and has lied this whole time, or he's a complete moron. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and go with peabrain over dirtbag. You're welcome, Manti.

A lot of people point to the terrible journalism surrounding the story and make a big hoopla about how journalists need to be more careful, blah blah blah. Yeah, they do, and the journalists who didn't sense something funky with this story certainly have smaller than average brains, but Manti straight up might not have one.

Journalists neglected to call Stanford and check graduation records for Liliana Hooahmahjager or whatever they called that fake thing Manti talked to every night. Big deal. Calling people is the worst. I don't think I've answered a phone call since I had a Motorola V600 (probably the greatest phone of all time) in like 2007. And the only thing more annoying than phone calls? Looking things up that aren't online. And since I just Googled "Stanford graduating class 2012" and it didn't provide me with a list of graduates I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist. It brought me to some commencement page. Is there a list of graduating students somewhere on here? Maybe. But 30 seconds of searching did nothing for me and that's all I need to understand as to why journalists were just like "well, it's in that article…let's run with it." Might be the most understandable thing ever. 

But as for Manti… No pass for you, buddy boy. I can understand the journalists being lazy, because that's what people do and if you don't trust what you read on Google or Twitter, you're either lying or doing it wrong. But this Manti character apparently talked on the phone for hours and hours and hours at a time. There were times when he would fall asleep listening to that Ronaiah weirdo breath into the phone. Once you hit "listening to sleeping person breath" territory you have to do a little more extensive Googling, right? I Google basically everyone I meet just to see if they were ever in a lame high school YouTube project. That's the highlight of like half my days. So how can you spend the majority of your time talking to someone you've never met or seen and not figure out that they're not real? Really blows my mind.

But that's okay. Morris Claiborne is borderline illiterate according to his Wonderlic test score, and by borderline illiterate I mean he's absolutely illiterate according to the test. But the NFL doesn't really have a problem with a player spending three years in college and leaving functionally illiterate (and neither does the NCAA evidently, although it probably should if it wants to promote that whole "student athlete" garbage), and the Cowboys traded up to grab Claiborne with the sixth pick in the 2012 NFL draft. 

So perhaps Te'o's idiocy may not hurt his draft stock, but what about the fact that he's small, slow and not very good at football? ESPN has long heralded him as a can't miss prospect, and supposed draft guru Mel Kiper had him as his No. 2 prospect before the national championship game and No. 6 after that disaster. But even ESPN lost some faith (pun quasi-intended) in Te'o after his combine performance.

Te'o measured 6-foot-1 - not ideal, but fine size for an inside linebacker - and ran a 4.82 40-yard dash. That's slower than Colby Cameron - a quarterback from Louisiana Tech who lit up the ground game for 177 yards on 2.9 yards per carry. Cameron even broke an 18-yarder this year. You just can't teach that speed. And while some point to other combine disappointments like LSU linebacker Kevin Minter, who can lean on their solid track record against NFL (i.e. SEC) talent, Te'o doesn't really have that. For him, the combine mattered much more, and in that sense he blew a huge opportunity by being so bad and slow.

And as the league moves more towards open, spread systems, why would a team spend a first-round pick on a player who may not be able to play in passing situations? People point to Te'o's seven interceptions this year as a sign that he's great in pass coverage, but while he may have impressive ball skills and instincts, simple math forces evaluators to question his NFL pass coverage potential. At 6-foor-1 and running a 4.82 he's both smaller and slower than most NFL tight ends. As Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham continue to revolutionize the position, teams will need bigger and faster linebackers for coverage, not smaller ones. 

So whichever team wants to take a chance on the stupid, kind of small, slow inside linebacker, go right ahead. He could end up going at the end of the first round to a team with a need like the Texans or Bears, but it's hard to see disciplined playoff teams signing up for the circus that will come with Te'o. But of course that's what the Jets are in the league for, right? Well actually they're too busy meeting with a different controversial prospect. Now that would be hilarious.

Reach Staff Writer David Tobia here or follow him on Twitter.



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