INDIANAPOLIS – If Manti Te’o were a stock, now would be a good time to buy.
His value had been driven down by a poor performance in the BCS national championship game and the girlfriend hoax saga.
It might have been driven down further Monday with a mediocre NFL combine workout.
Te’o posted a vertical jump of 33 inches and a broad jump of 113 inches.
And he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.82 seconds. That placed him 20th out of 26 linebackers.
With every fraction of a second it took him to run those 40 yards, it became more apparent he will be available at pick No. 20 of the NFL draft, where the Chicago Bears are sitting.
In fact, there even were some rumblings that Te’o could fall out of the first round. In 2009, James Laurinaitis and Rey Maualuga both fell to the second round after running 4.76 and 4.78, respectively.
That 40-yard dash time? Didn’t mean a whole lot.
It’s never a bad thing to run a sizzling 40, but the truth is track speed has little to do with middle linebacker play. “If a middle linebacker runs a 4.82 but he is instinctive and quick in a short area, the 40-yard dash time doesn’t matter,” one AFC general manager said. “At that position what matters is they are productive and make plays.”
Lofa Tatupu ran a 4.83 in the 40-yard dash and promptly made three Pro Bowl appearances as a member of the Seahawks.
In the 20-yard shuttle, which measures short-area quickness and ability to change direction, Te’o had a respectable time of 4.27.
More than one front-office man said Te’o looked tense and nervous, and that they expect him to test better at his pro day in South Bend.
Many NFL teams were more interested in listening to Te’o talk at the combine than they were in watching him prance around wearing Lycra. And according to four team executives who interviewed Te’o, he talked as well as he played last season – which is to say he did a fine job in interviews.
“Manti did a real good job with the interview,” Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. “You could see how smart he was, how bright he was.”
The most challenging part of evaluating Te’o might be focusing strictly on the football player and everything he did between the lines.
“I think a lot has been blown out of proportion with Manti,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. “We have to depend mostly on our evaluation on what he did on the field. We talk to them about off-field issues, take psychological inventories, and find out as much as we can. But at some point you can talk yourself out of some good football players with too much information. We try not to do that. We don’t put our head in the sand, but we don’t overanalyze the information we get either.”
Now might not be the only good time to buy Manti Te’o.
April 25 might be a good time as well.