Eden Prairie, Minn. • The Minnesota Vikings have two picks in the first round of the NFL draft and one big hole in the middle of their defense.
The Vikings have vowed to find their starting middle linebacker in this year’s draft, and the famous-for-more-than-football Manti Te’o could be still on the board when they’re on the clock with the 23rd and 25th selections Thursday night.
The Heisman Trophy runner-up from Notre Dame, whose school-record seven interceptions last season made him a national story well before the hoax began about his fake girlfriend, could be a good fit in Minnesota. The Vikings, after all, took three of his former Fighting Irish teammates over the last two drafts and have five guys from Notre Dame on their roster.
"It would be perfect for what they do there," ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said, comparing Te’o’s skill set to that of former NFL middle linebacker Chris Spielman, the brother of Vikings general manager Rick Spielman.
But while many mock drafts have Te’o pegged in purple, Kiper said on a recent conference call with reporters that he doesn’t believe Te’o will be available at No. 23. Georgia’s Alec Olgetree is another prime linebacker prospect carrying an off-the-field concern; he was arrested for drunken driving earlier this year and also suspended for four games last season.
If the Vikings can’t get, or pass on, Te’o and Olgetree, they could find Kevin Minter of LSU or Arthur Brown of Kansas State to their liking in the second round.
"If you want Te’o, you have to probably move up a little bit," Kiper said, adding: "It’s really whether they want to roll the dice or not."
Spielman has suggested he’s not worried about whatever risk Te’o might bring. It’s a unique set of obstacles to navigate.
After becoming one of the most celebrated college players in the country, in part because of the supposed relationship with a woman who was said to have died during the season and inspired him to play his best, Te’o has had to deal with the ensuing embarrassment from the revelation that this girlfriend did not exist.
Spielman said he didn’t see the due diligence required to research Te’o any different than that for other players.
"In the end, you’ll sit there and discuss all that," Spielman said recently. "Every team will make their own determination. How do you compare what happened, because he’s an extremely talented football player, against a guy who may have a drug issue or may have an arrest record or may have some other off-field issue?"Next Page >
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