Manti Te'o, Character and the NFL Draft

Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

The controversy around Manti Te'o doesn't change his ability to play football. However, any team picking the Notre Dame product is going to have to answer another question.

There hasn't been a story in sports that has stunned me as much as the Manti Te'o saga since the Penn St, Jerry Sandusky case. Deadspin reported that his girlfriend, who died around the same time as his Grandmother, in fact never existed.

Manti Te'o's statement does differ from the Deadspin report in many ways, but he does admit that this girlfreind never existed, and he was duped on the internet, and pulled into a fake relationship.

"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating."

Even if Te'o was being completely honest in his statement, it proved that he lied, a lot. He either lied to not appear to be an idiot, according to his story, or it may go much much deeper than that if we are to believe the Deadspin story.

Te'o is the best middle linebacker in this draft and he definitely has a great NFL skill set, but now there are huge questions about his draft stock. Will it even fall? How much could it fall? No one knows. Having a player this talented and with this high of a profile being caught in a scandal like this is unprecedented.

In the NFL draft, there is always guys with huge character flaws, but immense talent. It becomes the ultimate risk/reward test whenever a team takes a gamble on one of these players.

The main difference here is most player's character flaws stem from ignorance or stupidity that lead to mistakes, which every 20-something year old is guilty of, but Te'o, on the other hand, took this a step further by lying. He didn't do anything illegal, but lying like he did is a huge mark against his character.

What I do know is Manti Te'o can play football, and that hasn't been changed by this controversy. Character doesn't make tackles and game changing plays. Talented players do. He can be a huge help to a team. I also know Jeff Fisher has been a guy who takes risk on players with character flaws such as Janoris Jenkins, Vince Young and Adam "Pacman" Jones.

Te'o could be a huge help to the Rams defense. Pairing him with James Laurnaitis could give the Rams a very similar pairing that we see in Chicago with Lance Briggs and Brian Urlacher. Te'o could play strong side next to James Laurnaitis, in a role that's more of a second MLB than as a pure OLB. The Rams may also hire Rob Ryan at some point and time, and that could mean mixing some 3-4 in the defense, where Te'o and James would command the middle.

Here though, the concern isn't if the player can stay on the right track or even if he can be successful. It's whether or not the media frenzy is worth it. Even with the friendly St. Louis media, the Rams couldn't maintain a low profile with Te'o as they did with Janoris Jenkins, who was suspended for no given reason and without any major inquiries by the St. Louis media.

What should be expected for any team that chooses to draft Manti Te'o is a similar media frenzy, but not likely to the extent, that the Ravens saw in 2000 with Ray Lewis, when he was accused of double murder. It should be noted the Ravens were able to overcome the distraction and won the Super Bowl, but Ray was already a team leader before his being accused, and his teammates rallied around him.

Would a brand new set of teammates be able to maintain the same unity with the Te'o firestorm around them? Would he be worth it?

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