Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
I know what you're thinking. Too slow. Got run over by Alabama's linemen in the BCS Championship Game. Ran a 4.8 40-yard dash at the Combine. And that's not even bringing up the infamous Lennay Kekua (sorry, couldn't bring myself to furnish a link). However, I think this is the skin-deep analysis, placing too much emphasis on the sizzle and not on the steak.
Here's the steak. Number one, the Bears need linebackers. Quick: name a Bears linebacker for 2013 not named Lance Briggs. MLB Brian Urlacher has recently departed the Bears for parts unknown. Strongside linebacker Nick Roach left the Bears for the Raiders (the Raiders, really?). And the aforementioned Lance Briggs will turn 33 during the upcoming season (putting that in perspective, Briggs is a year and a half OLDER than his former U of Miami teammate Jonathan Vilma). DJ Williams was signed away from the Broncos, but he was suspended for 9 games last season for failing a drug test and will turn 31 before the 2013 season starts. The Bears need more depth and youth at the position.
So the Bears need linebackers. Why pick Te'o and not someone else. Arthur Brown? Alec Ogletree? Anyone? The sports world, particularly when it comes to the NFL Draft, has a short memory. Before the calendar turned from 2012 to 2013, Manti Te'o was probably looked at as one of the safest NFL picks out there. A second-place finish for the Heisman. A three-year starter for the Irish, with 133 tackles in 2010, 128 tackles in 2011, and 113 tackles in 2012, when he led the Irish to an undefeated regular season and the national championship game. Perhaps most impressive in 2012 was his seven interceptions, tying Te'o for second in the nation. This showed decided improvement considering Te'o had never recorded a collegiate interception before 2012. Check out more on Manti's college career here.
Go back even further to his high school playing career. He was the state defensive player of the year as a junior. During his senior year, he was named the first recipient of the high school Butkus award, won the Gatorade state player of the year award, and led his team to the state championship. What's my point? All of this shows tremendous consistency in production over a period of six seasons with no drug, disciplinary, or other off-the-field issues aside from the aforementioned Miss Kukua. And despite playing one of the most physical positions on the field, Te'o missed almost no playing time as a result of injury. And that Combine 40-yard dash time did come down from 4.8 to 4.71, roughly the same time Te'o ran in high school. So he managed all that productivity in college without the fastest feet on the field.
Brown couldn't crack the lineup at Miami before transferring to Kansas State, and Ogletree has had well-documented problems with the law. The Bears need someone they can count on game in, game out. The coverage ability and ball instincts Te'o displayed in 2012 will serve him well in the NFC North, as he will have to combat the likes of Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Christian Ponder (well, two out of three ain't bad) regularly as division rivals. It is this coverage ability, his football intelligence, and his knack for being in the right place at the right time (as long as it is on the gridiron and not the ‘net) that gives him the edge in my book. It's not like the Bears haven't taken a gamble on a linebacker before, drafting a converted safety from New Mexico back in 2000 with the 9th overall pick. Urlacher ran a 4.67 40, just slightly faster than Te'o at his Pro Day.
Plug Te'o in the middle of the Bears defense for the next decade. And for dealing with the fallout from the catfishing scandal, it doesn't hurt that no NFL city is more Notre Dame friendly than Chicago. It is close, but Te'o is the pick here. A confluence of team need and consistent, demonstrated production by a football player who has demonstrated intelligence where it counts - between the hash marks.
Thanks to all the CSC members who participated in this year's community mock draft. Without your help, none of this would be possible.
Below are the complete results from our community mock draft.
Catch up with all of the mock draft selections in our 2013 CSC Community Draft Section.
|Kansas City Chiefs
OT Luke Joeckel - Texas A&M
QB Geno Smith - West Virginia
|Dragon Ninja Warrior
CB Dee Milliner - Alabama
OT Eric Fisher - Central Mich.
DE Dion Jordan - Oregon
DE/OLB Ezekiel Ansah - BYU
|Fan since the Aints
|OT Lane Johnson - Oklahoma
|Joseph Williams Stern
|G Chance Warmack - Alabama
|S Kenny Vaccaro - Texas
|G Jonathan Cooper - UNC
|San Diego Chargers
|DT Sharrif Floyd - Florida
|DT Star Lotulelei- Utah
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers
|CB Xavier Rhodes - Florida St.
|CB Desmond Trufant - Washington
|New Orleans Saints
|DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo - LSU
|St. Louis Rams
|OLB Jarvis Jones - Georgia
|WR Cordarrelle Patterson - Tennessee
|OT D.J. Fluker - Alabama
|DT Sheldon Richardson - Missouri
|ILB Manti Te'o - Notre Dame
|Fan since the Aints
|St. Louis Rams (from Washington)
|Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle)
|Fan since the Aints
|Green Bay Packers
|New England Patriots
|San Francisco 49ers