The Manti Te'o girlfriend story is one of the weirdest in the sports world in recent memory. It started out as one of the most inspiring, but quickly became twisted into one of the strangest. Today, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o did an interview with Katie Couric in an attempt to get his side of the story out in the open. He has been the target of many jokes on social media sites and the media and public have rushed to judgment regarding the situation. Manti Te'o hasn't really done himself many favors with his own response to the situation, but will it hurt his stock heading into the 2013 NFL Draft?
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o may have been catfished by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, becoming attached to a fake girlfriend named Lennay Kekua that he never met, but that isn't going to have any impact on where he's drafted in April's 2013 NFL Draft. Sure, he's going to be the target of some brutal locker room jokes once he gets drafted, but his play on the field is what is going to have the final say on his draft stock.
As former Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian made clear on ESPN, this is not a character issue. It's a weird story, maybe Manti Te'o is naive, but there doesn't seem to be anything that makes him risky choice in the 2013 NFL Draft. Drugs, alcohol, violence, discipline issues are things that drop prospects down the big board.
There is one other factor: performance on the field. That is where Manti Te'o is going to see his 2013 NFL Draft stock take the biggest hit.
In his final collegiate game, a potential showcase game against the best offensive line and running backs combination in the country with the national title on the line, Manti Te'o didn't just fall flat – he was flattened by a dominant unit. Manti Te'o didn't look like he belonged on the same field as the Alabama Crimson Tide. He benefited all season from a defensive line that decisively controlled the line of scrimmage all season, keeping opposing offensive linemen stalled at the line of scrimmage and off of Te'o. When the Notre Dame defensive line met its match, Manti Te'o had no answers.
Even when he was able to get his hands on Eddie Lacy or T.J. Yeldon, Manti Te'o seemed overmatched most of the night. He missed far too many tackles for a Top 10 pick, as he was previously projected.
Has the 2013 NFL Draft stock of Manti Te'o dropped? No doubt it has. That poor performance on the biggest stage against the best competition he faced all season has to call into question his ability to make an impact at the next level. No doubt Alabama fielded the best offensive line in the country this season, but the NFL showcases the best 32 offensive lines in the country every year. Manti Te'o will be expected to come in and be a difference maker if he's selected in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, whether or not his defensive line is controlling the point of attack.
And after watching Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon run through the Notre Dame defense, that's the biggest question mark surrounding Manti Te'o. Not Lennay Kekua.
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