As a legion of NFL teams dutifully looked on, former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o did his best to convince them he's worthy of a first-round pick.
At least five teams remained unmoved.
"Nice player, but not worth a first-round pick. Not in my view," said an AFC personnel man who was on hand. "It's the old saying about, 'It only takes one team to fall in love with a guy.' "
The personnel man then caught himself for a second, chuckled and said, "That's probably not the best phrase to use with Te'o, is it?"
While much of the dust has settled around Te'o regarding the odd tale of the girlfriend who never existed, the issue now is a much simpler one:
How good of a football player is Te'o? On Tuesday, he helped himself a tad by running between 4.71 and 4.75 in the 40-yard dash, much better times than he ran at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis in February. He also benched 225 pounds a respectable 21 times.
Still, the question remains: Was Te'o, the leader of a Notre Dame squad that got to the national championship game, a creation of media hype?
In short, is he more Rick Mirer or Tim Brown?
"I think he can play and he can help your defense," an AFC head coach said. "But he's a two-down player on a good team. He's not a star. If I'm taking a linebacker in the first round, I want a guy who can change my defense. Trust me, I've been wrong about linebackers before, but this guy doesn't fit the bill of what I spend a high pick on."
The good news for Te'o is that most NFL people now consider the weird story of Te'o's phone relationship to a woman he never met who died and then turned out to be a man to be a mostly dead issue.
"Our security people checked it out because he’s still on our board. There's nothing more we can find from it," the AFC personnel man said.
Likewise, an NFC defensive coordinator said that much of the attention that went with Te'o in January has died to the point that teams aren’t concerned now.
"It's going to come up if you draft him and he's worth drafting. But it's like with everything in the NFL, 'What's the next story?' " the NFC defensive coordinator said. "If you take him, he answers the questions again, you answer the questions, it's done."
OK, so does that mean you take him in the first round?
"No, he's not good enough in my view. Now, I say that and we haven't finalized our board yet. But with the upside that I see and the needs that we have just on defense alone, I wouldn't recommend that," the defensive coordinator said. "If I'm taking an inside linebacker in the first round, I want a big, intimidating hitter who can play all three downs. I want a Patrick Willis or a NaVorro Bowman. Te'o is not in their class, not by a long shot."
The problem for Te'o is that while he’s relatively athletic, he's not good enough to overcome superior players. He’s considered neither explosive enough nor quick enough to get through or around better blockers in the pros. The BCS title game performance against Alabama was a prime example.
"He got overwhelmed, just like the rest of the team," the AFC coach said. "It's one thing to get your butt whipped, it's another thing to get manhandled. He got manhandled. You can do all these pretty drills that you want and he can run whatever time he runs, but that's what I see every time I watch that game.
"I never saw that with Ray Lewis or Jonathan Vilma when I watched their tape."
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