Why Manti Te'o Will Be Undervalued in the NFL Draft

Why Manti Te'o will be undervalued in the NFL Draft

1/4/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

As a Raiders fan, I've had to spend my football Sundays watching terrible defenses take the field since I was 13 years old. With my team now in possession of the third overall pick, I'm anticipating this year's draft more than any since 2007 when the Raiders selected the biggest thief in NFL history, JaMarcus Russell. This year, I don't want a player who is simply oozing with physical tools. I don't want a player with loads of potential and raw ability. I want a player who I have seen dominate the field of play with his head on straight as the unquestioned leader of his team. I want Manti Te'o to be an Oakland Raider.
Blog Photo - Why Manti Te'o Will Be Undervalued in the NFL Draft
Unfortunately, my wish is unlikely to be granted, as we are now in an era in which speedy pass rushers, monstrous run stuffers, and shutdown cornerbacks dominate defensive priority lists. With so many needs on the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders are unlikely to select the understated middle linebacker - but I strongly believe they should reconsider.

There's so much focus in the draft on defensive ends, outside linebackers, and cornerbacks - but think about it, those players cover half of the field. Sure, a great defensive end stays at home and prevents the cutback on a stretch play to the opposite side, but a great middle linebacker hunts the running back down and makes the tackle on a stretch play to either side.

I've seen first-hand how a great cornerback impacts a bad defense. Nnamdi Asomugha had one of the all-time impressive cornerback seasons back in 2008, in which he gave up eight catches for 133 yards all season. Asomugha was named first-team All-Pro, but the Raiders were still ranked 27th in total defense and 22nd in opponent yards per pass attempt.

The most valuable defensive players are located in the middle of the defense, where they can make an impact on any play. If a team wants to take a player like Star Lotulelei over Te'o - fine. I have no beef with that, as Lotulelei is a sensational interior defensive lineman who can wreak havoc wherever you try to run the ball. I'd still advise taking Te'o, however, because he's been the better of the two players in the film that I've seen.

Just look at the perennially great defenses: the Ravens with Ray Lewis, the Steelers with Troy Polamalu, the Bears with Brian Urlacher, the 49ers with Patrick Willis/Justin Smith. How about the team ranked 1st in scoring defense this season? The Seahawks' lone Pro Bowler was safety Earl Thomas. The list goes on and on.

You may be wondering about the Houston Texans, who have the 7th ranked defense with their best players located at defensive end and cornerback. You remember Brian Cushing, right? Former Pro Bowl middle linebacker? Cushing is out for the season with a torn ACL. Before Cushing's injury, the Texans gave up 275.6 yards per game; after the injury, the Texans have given up 344.9 yards per game. That's a pretty sizable difference.

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1/6/13   |   richard_cranium   |   17673 respect

As a ND fan, I have had the pleasure of watching Manti grow as a football player the last 4 years. He has always spent the offseason improving his game. I have no doubt that he will continue to do that in the NFL. I know that my Cowboys would not draft him, not that he will be there anyways. I can only hope that he does not wind up on a team I hate. At least then I could root for him to have a great game. So the teams I don't want him playing for, Patriots, Steelers, Texans, Raiders, Redskins, Giants, Eagles, Packers, Falcons, Seahawks, Cardinals, Rams. That is only a 1/3 of the NFL, not too much to ask.