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Scouting Report
Perhaps no other selection of a player in this draft will generate more buzz than when Notre Dame's star linebacker is taken - and it's a good bet that no player is surrounded by more uncertainty. Te'o's draft stock had already taken a hit with his rough performance in the BCS title-game loss to Alabama, when he was overpowered by the Crimson Tide's NFL-ready offensive linemen and appeared more than a step slow at times. That, of course, paled in comparison to what happened next. In one of the most bizarre sagas in the history of sports, Te'o's "girlfriend," who he claimed had died of cancer on the same day his grandmother passed away from the disease in September and who he cited often as a source of motivation during the season, was exposed as having not existed, and the player claimed he had been duped online by a male acquaintance who said he was in love with Te'o. The wild story continues to reverberate with the draft approaching. Despite Te'o doing multiple interviews - both in public and with NFL teams at the scouting combine - in an attempt to clear up the scandal that emerged shortly after the championship game, questions linger, and talent evaluators may still not know what to make of the situation and whether it represents a major red flag or poses no problems at all. It's possible that more of them would lean toward the latter if the Heisman Trophy runner-up and winner of the Maxwell, Walter Camp, Bednarik and Butkus awards had played well against Alabama or had a reassuring performance at the combine, but neither happened. Te'o ran a disappointing 4.82 in the 40-yard dash and participated in five of seven drills, opting out of the bench press and 60-yard shuttle, and did not finish among the top five at his position in any of them. He did improve his 40 time at Notre Dame's pro day, running a 4.69. Aside from the scandal, some teams could be worried that Te'o excelled against Notre Dame's weaker schedule and was exposed by the Tide and the combine. It's also possible that teams interested in Te'o will pass on him simply to avoid the distraction that will come with having him on the roster. However, it may also prove dangerous for personnel evaluators to ignore his potential. In December, Te'o was being projected as a big-hitting, dominant NFL middle linebacker and defensive leader in the mold of Junior Seau, possibly ticketed for the top five picks in the draft. Regardless of competition, Te'o's numbers may be too much to ignore: More than 100 tackles in each of the last three seasons, including 133 in 2010 and 13 1/2 for loss in 2011, along with seven interceptions last season - a school record for a linebacker. Still, his possible lack of speed and quickness - a potentially big drawback in a pass-heavy league in which linebackers need to be able to cover receivers - and perhaps strength, could further erode his standing among teams. Te'o's draft position - and his impact in the NFL - seem likely to remain shrouded in unknowns. He still seems a good bet to be chosen in the first round, though.