Manti Te’o LB Notre Dame #5
Size/Athleticism: Prototypical size with adequate strength. Lacks the athleticism to really excel in today’s NFL. He’s a liability in coverage and lacks the elite lateral movement and straight-line speed to be a sideline-to-sideline defender.
Run Defense: Lacks the elite quickness and agility to fight through traffic. He does a nice job diagnosing the play and reacting quickly, but he’s often a step late because he gets caught up in traffic. Struggles to disengage from blocks. Gets swallowed up at the point of attack. Moves downhill at the snap on every running play, which gets offensive linemen the opportunity to quickly get to him and take him out of the play. I’d prefer to see him stay back more often, giving him an extra second to diagnose the play
Pass Rush: Rarely used as a pass-rusher. He isn’t fast enough to catch the offensive line off guard and slip past unblocked, and he isn’t strong enough to shed blocks fast enough to get into the backfield.
Coverage: Limited in coverage due to do very average athleticism. He lacks the fluid hips to turn and run with most tight ends and running backs. He’s physical, so he can fight with the tight end at the line of scrimmage, but when lined up a middle linebacker he’s rarely in position to for that type of interaction. He does have good ball skills, but almost all of his interceptions came from simply being in the right place at the right time. He’s not the type of linebacker who makes plays for himself in coverage, he just capitalizes on mistakes. He does a decent job reading the quarterback when he’s in zone coverage, but he simply lacks the quick-twitch athleticism to read the quarterback and react quickly enough to make a play.
Intangibles: The catfishing incident is something that needs to be considered. While he’s respected by teammates, he has a reputation for keeping to himself off the field. He’s a quiet, religious guy who doesn’t fit the typical mold of a high-profile NFL player. He’s going to be harassed by teammates and opponents about the incident and teams will need to grill him on the subject to ensure that he will be able to handle the scrutiny without letting it affect his performance. At the combine he blamed stress for a poor showing. While there’s no denying that the combine is stressful, so is life in the NFL. Can he handle it? Was stress also the reason for a sub-par showing in the National Championship Game? These are questions that may not affect his grade, but they need to be addressed during the interview process.
Durability: No significant issues.
Comments: The best way to summarize Te’o is to say that he takes advantage of mistakes, but rarely creates plays for himself. When he ends up in the right place at the right time, he’ll finish the play but he rarely makes the athletic play to really stand out as an elite prospect. His athleticism is shaky at best and in today’s NFL, he is going to be a liability in many matchups both in coverage and against teams that run the read option. Another concern with Te’o is the fact the he seems to understand his lack of athleticism, and tries to overcompensate by guessing too often. Here’s a great example from the Alabama game in which he starts to move pre-snap, and ends up yielding an easy touchdown (also note that he’s not even moving in the direction of Lacy’s fake run, he’s purely guessing).