Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o has made plenty of headlines lately, but it’s his ability to play the linebacker position in the NFL that I’m going to address here. Interestingly, I think Te’o’s draft stock was bound to take a hit this time of the year, girlfriend hoax or not, simply because he’s a somewhat incomplete player at a “non-premium” position.

Scouting Report

Manti Te’o was an extremely productive player at Notre Dame, averaging 122 tackles over the past three seasons. At 6’2’’, 250 pounds, Te’o has prototypical inside linebacker size, capable of fitting into either a 4-3 or 3-4. He’s a strong, powerful player who stands up well against the run; he’s probably the best run-defending inside linebacker in this class.

Te’o is an instinctual player who follows the ball well. He’s rarely fooled, diagnosing plays as well as any linebacker coming out this year and often a step ahead of everyone on the field. Te’o is strong enough to stand up at the point-of-attack, yet possesses enough lateral quickness to pursue ball-carriers down the line. In terms of run defense alone, he’s a first-round talent without a doubt.

Te’o isn’t quite as reliable in pass coverage. To his credit, the linebacker shed a lot of weight after the 2011 season to improve his quickness in coverage, and he led all linebackers in college football with seven interceptions in 2012. While Te’o’s straight-line speed is average, he can still make plays as a pass defender, especially when he’s asked to move laterally. At the 3:34 mark below, you can see Te’o trust what he sees and run with a quicker player underneath.