Te'o Halas Hall visit could be smoke screen
The Bears have hosted Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, and they need an infusion of youth at the position, but that doesn’t mean they’re locked on to him with their first-round pick, the 20th overall.
NFL teams are allowed to host 30 players for individual predraft visits, and the Bears currently have just five picks in the draft. They don’t ever draft every player they invite to Halas Hall for a personal visit, so the odds are at least 6-1 they won’t take Te’o.
And, even if they decide to go after a linebacker first, it’s possible Georgia’s Alec Ogletree could be their top choice. Ogletree is regarded by most talent evaluators as the better player than Te’o and he’s an inch taller and a step faster. But he’ll probably fall to the Bears because of character concerns, which include a violation of the school’s drug policy last season and a DUI arrest the month before the Combine.
The Bears could also use an elite guard, and they’d be overjoyed if Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper fell to 20. Wide receiver and cornerback are other considerations, and at least a couple of each should land around 20. Mel Kiper Jr. continues to predict the Bears will take Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert, even though they signed Martellus Bennett. Who knows? Eifert could wind up having as much of an immediate impact as any offensive skill-position player in the draft.
There’s a good chance the Bears brought Te’o in just to convince other teams, mainly those drafting behind them, that they’re interested in taking the defensive player of the year. G.M. Phil Emery has said he would be agreeable to trading down in the first round to add more picks. The Bears currently lack a third-rounder from the Brandon Marshall trade and a seventh-rounder, which they owe the Bucs for taking a flier on defensive tackle Brian Price.
If Emery is looking for a trade partner anxious to get Te’o, he needs to look north to Minnesota, where the Vikings need a middle linebacker worse than the Bears. Te’o has also visited the Vikings, in addition to the Lions and Dolphins. But the Vikings have the 23rd and 25th overall picks. That’s about where Te’o should be picked, but if the Vikings are convinced the Bears like him at 20, they might give up a draft pick later to swap places.
Then again, maybe the Bears really do like Te’o, and this was just a second interview.
We’ll know in two weeks.