Notre Dame ILB Manti Te’o Scouting Report

By PFC Writer Philip Arnold (@PhilipArnold20)

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Inside Linebacker Manti Te’o

Manti Te’o is headed for the NFL after a wonderful four-year (three as a starter) career at Notre Dame. His reputation as a defensive leader and paired with his destructive presence led to him being one of the most decorated college football players this past season. He finished second on the Heisman Trophy ballot and in 2012 earned All-American honors, won the Bronko Nagurski and Bednarik awards.  Te’o’s skill set is impressive for a middle linebacker, but his recent character issues will hurt his draft stock.

Strengths

Te’o is an aggressive inside linebacker with natural instincts and always manages to hover around the football. Te’o is a solid tackler despite being a little bit undersized, which pairs well with his downhill speed. Te’o plays well in pass coverage, and can read the quarterback better than most college linebackers as evidenced by his seven interceptions. He showed aggression and an ability to lead this season, which translates well for any draft prospect with aspirations of succeeding in the NFL

Weaknesses

Te’o’s 40-times and below-average NFL Combine workouts have been critiqued by many figureheads around the league.  His 4.82 40-time has many teams questioning whether he will have the speed for the NFL level.  His times at the Notre Dame pro day again play a vital role in determining his April Draft stock.

Tools

 Te’o thinned down going from his junior season into his senior year.  He improved in his pass coverage ability and was one of the best in the business this past season for his position.  He possesses a strong football IQ in pass coverage and an ability to play aggressively down hill.

Character

Te’o was known for his leadership in the Notre Dame locker room and on the field.  The Lennay Kekua scandal has left  people wondering about Te’o’s mental state and whether that effected his physical performances. Te’o’s interviewing skills and integrity will undoubtedly be tested by the fierce executives and coaches in the NFL.  Many teams will be interested  in how he performs in his March 26th pro day, and if he can improve those results from the combine now that the scandal has been blown over.   He seems like a wonderful kid, but he must show mental strength in order to fit in with the rest of the men in an NFL locker room.

Pass Coverage

Pass coverage was Te’o’s best attribute this past season.  Notre Dame’s defensive system allowed him to play zone coverage, which he excelled best at.  He was able to play a lot of read the Quarterback middle zone in college, which left him free in man coverage schemes and led to a solid 7 interceptions.  Te’o may struggle in NFL pass coverage because he doesn’t have the speed to cover the more talented, athletic tight ends and running backs one on one in space in man coverage schemes. 

Run Support

  During the 2012 season Te’o tackling number and tackles for a loss looked a bit shallower due to his increased role in pass coverage.  He is a great downhill defender between the tackles and can make some great, athletic plays.  He totaled 113 tackles and had 5.5 tackles for loss this past season. He will need to improve his strength and ability to defeat blocks as well, since everyone remembers his disappointing performance against Alabama in the National Championship.  Alabama’s offensive line is the closest thing to “NFL-ready” on the college level; Te’o failed to make an impact against the Crimson Tide’s hogs up front and Alabama racked up a solid 264 rushing yards in the game.

Pass Rush

Te’o really was a non-factor this year in showing his puss rush ability.  He is skilled in the pass coverage and Notre Dame used that to their advantage. During his junior season when he was used primarily to stop the run and rush the pass, Te’o was able to total 5 sacks.
Tackling

Te’o is a very aggressive downhill tackler.  His downhill, aggressive playing style put him in good position to make some hard, punishing hits on ball carriers.  However with Te’o’s aggressive style, he can get out of control and not break down causing him to lunge at ball carriers which he will have to fix against quick, shifty backs in the NFL.

Draft Predictions and NFL Fits

No players stock has risen and fallen more than Te’o’s.  During his strong senior season many thought Te’o would be a top 5 to 10 pick in the draft.  Now with a little over a month until draft day, Te’o projects as a late first-rounder or early second-rounder. His skill set as a tackler and abilities in coverage are used to compare him to Rey  Maualuga and Jim Laurinaitis.  Laurinaitis, who also had a strong college career, speed was questioned coming out of college and fell to the second round, which is very possible with Te’o.

Chicago (1.20)

Houston (1.27)

Baltimore (1.32)

Cincinnati  (2.5)

New York Jets (2.8)