What is the NFL saying about Manti Te'o's draft stock?
The scandal surrounding Manti Te'o and fictional girlfriend Lennay Kekua has transcended the sports world, but, as the situation untangles, Te'o himself is in the midst of training for April's NFL Draft.
Considered at times a potential top-10 pick, Te'o's poor performance in Notre Dame's BCS Championship Game loss to Alabama had already seemed to hurt the linebacker's draft stock. But what do NFL teams think of him now, in light of the recent news? SI.com's Don Banks and Jim Trotter took an anonymous poll of NFL executives and coaches to gauge their opinions. Below is a sampling of the responses.
"I can't make a judgment at this point. No. 1, it's a bizarre set of circumstances. When something so bizarre happens, I don't rush to judgment because I don't know the details. I've got to find out what the hell happened. It's something a lot of investigation will be needed on.
"...You've got to remember you're talking about 32 different rooms and 32 different sets of sensibilities. We just don't know yet whether this has any bearing on what kind of player he is, or what kind of person he is.
"If he's implicit in it and had some kind of role in this whole scheme, then absolutely you've got to look at that differently. The way his status gets impacted is if it goes that route. I don't think he gets impacted if he's just a victim and a naive kid and just got caught up in something. Even in him getting caught up in it, if you dig deep and all of a sudden you realize he had nothing to do with it, but then as it progressed and he realized it was a hoax didn't know how to handle it, and made a bad decision, if it's along those lines then that's a lot more forgivable.
"But if it comes out that it's a situation in fact where he did this by design, then all of a sudden you've got to dig deeper because you've got to assess who he really is, in context of all these other things. That's where it potentially impacts him. Because in the scouting process, we try to paint a picture of who these guys are. And if he's represented himself a certain way and you assume this guy is this, and now you've got new information to suggest he might be that, then you've got to dig deeper and you've got to figure what you're comfortable with. That's how this is going to happen.''
-- NFL GM
"Using the obvious disclaimer that I know the world is now an instantaneous news cycle, there's still so much about this that I don't think anybody understands. Obviously trying to predict draft stock in January is dangerous anyway, and this story just makes it truly dangerous.
"But the one question you have for somebody whose intangibles were supposed to be the hallmark of the player, there's a reputational risk that's probably greater for him than it would be for a player who has off-the-field incidents, but who you already knew carried some risk.
On whether the scandal could help explain Te'o's BCS title game performance:
"What was pushing Te'o up the boards was the leadership, the character, the integrity, the story. The bowl game probably re-focused the conversation a little bit on his physical skills away from the narrative. This just complicates the narrative, which will put him back to where he should be drafted on physical talent alone. If he was going to get a bump for the character, this probably neutralizes that.''
On whether this is a unique red flag:
"Nothing's totally unique, but this is a modern-day red flag. There are lots of stories that you get in the draft that nobody has real answers to. They're just usually not this public and they don't usually play out this way. We were bound to have a first social media-related question mark to come up at some point in the draft, and this is it.''
"There's so much time left to answer questions and to turn anything that could be negative into a positive. This is just the first chapter of the book. It would be silly to think you've read the epilogue.''
-- NFL club executive
"I honestly don't know. I want to sit down with this kid and hear his interpretation."
-- NFL personnel executive
"We don't have all the information and some of us haven't even been following this whole thing. To even say what it might do to him, not knowing what it is, I think would be kind of a disservice.''
On whether this reflects on Te'o's intangibles:
"I guess at the end of the day ... it gives you a shadow of a doubt. So what does that mean? How does it affect him? Does it drop him? Where does it put him? I can't even say. Because I don't even know how much of it is true. It just makes everybody do more homework, more research and find out exactly what the deal is. So from that perspective, it's going to cause you do more work on him. It's something that's going to have to be researched. And there's plenty of time between now and [the draft] to research it and get to the bottom of it. He's going to have multiple opportunities to talk to multiple people, whose job it is to ferret out that type of information.''
-- NFL club executive
"Clubs are going to do their due diligence, they're going to do their homework, and they're going to find out who someone is. I'm not sure if a situation like this would affect someone's draft status. I think you would have to look to see what team is making the call. With some teams, the better player you are, the more they would let some things slide. And some teams, different things to them are red flags -- and red flags are not looked upon as good things when you're talking about your 'franchise' players. If he's your 'franchise' player, then you don't necessarily want to have red flags for those ... that are leaders and the face of your team."
-- NFL defensive coordinator
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