The Question Marks: Manti Te’o


May 10, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te

One of the players that I am looking forward to most this season is Manti Te’o. As excited as I am to see him on the field, there is an unknown factor that we all have with him. We haven’t seen his skills translate to the NFL level and we have no idea if he will be up to the task. A lot of us feel that he has the ability to be a good linebacker in this game, but we still have to see it happen.

Here is a reminder of his strengths and weaknesses from CBS Sports:

STRENGTHS: Possesses a typical Polynesian build. Has a stocky, powerful frame with overall weight distribution and a naturally low-center of gravity which aids him in anchoring against blockers. Shows very good key and diagnosis skills, correctly identifying the intent of the play and quickly attacking.

May not possess elite straight-line speed as timed in workouts but consistently gets to the edge due to his lateral agility, balance and anticipation. Generally a reliable open field tackler. Brings his hips as he hits the ball-carrier, powering through him and wrapping his arm securely for the tackle. Does a nice job of forcing the ballcarrier to commit, rarely allowing cut-back opportunities.

Returned for his senior season dedicated to making himself a more productive defender against the pass and was incredibly successful in those role, demonstrating not only better speed and fluidity but instincts in coverage. Entered his senior campaign with zero career interceptions but recorded seven in 2012 to lead all FBS linebackers.

Showed much better awareness, body control and ball-skills in this regard as a senior. Known throughout his career as a leader and a man of integrity. Voted a team captain. Earned the prestigious Eagle Scout award in 2008.

WEAKNESSES: Does not possess elite straight-line speed and may struggle to beat the NFL’s faster backs to the edge. Was protected by an awfully talented defensive front at Notre Dame and struggled to get off blocks against Alabama when they were unable to keep blockers away from him.

While remarkably productive as a pass defender in 2012, does not possess ideal change-of-direction skills for man coverage responsibilities against NFL pass-catchers. May have shorter than ideal arm-length, which contributed to his slipping off ballcarriers, on occasion. Regardless of the reason, Te’o played poorly in the biggest game of his life… Must reassure NFL teams in the pre-draft process that he is the man of integrity he’d been characterized as throughout his career.

I feel that Manti is a student of the game and will put in the hours in the film room to get a leg up on the competition. His ability to recognize plays in the game is uncanny. He will have to learn how to take on blockers, but I still feel that he will do some great things on the field. I am predicting rookie of the year out of this question mark.