Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o has gone from Heisman Trophy runner-up and a lead-pipe cinch top five NFL prospect to a silly, immature kid who needs to either grow up or just come clean and show that he is serious about playing pro football.
The fake girlfriend hoax raises doubts to whether Te'o is ready for the next level. He is certainly a productive player who appears to be ready to handle the physical demands of NFL life, but this charade may keep teams from taking him in the early part of the first round in April's draft, where Te'o is projected to be selected. Can he handle the emotional and psychological part of being a pro?
That will be a story in itself. If he grades out in the combine, or a pro day, a lot teams will push this nonsense aside. If he logs in a marginal performance in front of scouts, he may go into freefall in the first round. That is, if he shows he's ready to be an adult.
Don't forget, he played poorly vs Alabama in the BCS Championship Game, too, and may we say that last impressions are very powerful. His value has fallen on that performance alone.
If Te'o is this naive, teams that are looking for defensive leaders won't be looking to add him to their roster. If he is just playing a sophomoric game, other teams might just want to keep away, citing immaturity. Let somebody else make the mistake, a la Brian Bosworth.
An NFL team is either going to get very lucky or very unlucky by selecting Te'o this April. The Giants draft 19th, but we don't expect Te'o be around at that point. Not that the Giants would take him, but it will be interesting if he's still available. The Jets draft 9th and the Cowboys 18th. Hard to see him getting past either one of those war rooms...
The WheelHouse debates whether Te'o will be able to handle the NFL culture.