Manti Te'o to Bears?
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has some good reasons for the Bears taking Notre Dame’s notorious linebacker Manti Te’o with their first-round draft pick in his latest mock draft.
McShay agrees with most experts that the Bears need offensive line help, but he believes that it’s specifically the left tackle position that cries out for help. The problem is that McShay has the top three blind-side protectors all coming off the board long before the Bears pick 20th.
The uncertainty over the return of unrestricted free agent middle linebacker Brian Urlacher makes Te’o a logical pick, although McShay isn’t convinced that the Notre Dame defender will be an elite player in the NFL.
Some predictions have had Te’o going as high as No. 10, although it remains top be seen how the scandalous fake girlfriend hoax will affect his status.
“I think 10 would probably be too high, and it has nothing to do with the off-the-field stuff,” McShay said on his national conference call Friday afternoon. “One of the questions is: Can he be a really good, third-down or passing-down middle linebacker. I think this year helped him, the 7 interceptions. But the more I’m studying, the instincts got him in position, and he was quicker this year because he took off some weight, and you could tell he was moving better than he had in years past in the tape that I studied.”
Most talent evaluators are convinced that Te’o will be a quality run defender, but there is uncertainty over his speed and ability to run with backs and tight ends in coverage. His 40-yard dash time at next week’s NFL Scouting Combine will be closely watched.
“Manti Te’o still, to me, is not a lock that he’s going to be a great passing-down linebacker,” McShay said. “You love the ball skills and the instincts getting there. I think he’s a really good player, but I don’t think that he’s a Patrick Willis type of value in terms of the athleticism and the complete game. I don’t even think he’s a (Panthers) Luke Kuechly in terms of the complete game. That’s why I have him in that mid-to-late-first-round range.”
The 49ers took Willis 11th overall in 2007, and he’s made the Pro Bowl in each of his six seasons. The Panthers took Kuechly ninth overall last year, and he led the league with 164 tackles and was the Associated Press defensive rookie of the year.