With the draft just 17 days away, it is time to reevaluate Manti Te'o's value as an inside linebacker. He recently ran an unofficial 4.71 40-yard dash at Notre Dame's pro day, about 10 seconds better than his combine time. This shows improvement from his 4.81 time, and 4.71 is a very solid 40-yard dash time for an inside linebacker. It's clear that Te'o got the message after the combine that he would need to step it up in order to compete at the professional level; it's nice to see him living up to that challenge.
I admire Te'o's heart and his hustle, and I think his work ethic is contagious and would benefit all the players on whatever team ends up drafting him. He was a leader for Notre Dame last season and brought them from being unranked in the preseason to facing Alabama in the championship game. No doubt Te'o was a pivotal force for Notre Dame during that run, a run made even more impressive by his coping with the losses of his grandmother and, though fictitious girlfriend, girlfriend nonetheless.
Yet, question marks have hindered Te'o's skill and reputation. The recent hoax regarding his virtual girlfriend was beyond obscure, and NFL teams are going to want to get that information straight before signing Te'o. Additionally, his performance against Alabama in the championship game was disappointing, regardless of how strong Nick Saban's offense is.
The fact of the matter is that there are many teams that need an inside linebacker; the Bears, Giants, Vikings, and Ravens just to name a few. Te'o's stock rises on this premise alone, and it would be surprising to see him slip into the 2nd round of the draft. I'd still like to see him in Baltimore and am positive he would be a great contributor to Ozzie's squad. The demand for Te'o is there, but he still has much to prove, and many questions to answer.