Alabama dominated Notre Dame in Monday night’s college football national championship game, and Alabama’s offense was particularly successful going directly at what was supposed to be the strength of Notre Dame’s defense: The Crimson Tide ran for 265 yards, often going right up the middle at linebacker Manti Te’o, who was widely regarded as the best defensive player in college football in 2012. So will that game affect Te’o's draft stock?
Mike Mayock is well-positioned to have an opinion about that, because Mayock spends the football season as NBC’s commentator on Notre Dame games, and he spends the offseason as NFL Network’s draft analyst. And Mayock said today on Mike and Mike in the Morning that he thinks there’s a risk of people overreacting to one bad game from Te’o and dropping him further than he deserves to be dropped — but Mayock also thinks it’s valid to point out that Te’o struggled when facing future NFL offensive linemen and future NFL running backs against the Crimson Tide.
“I think the first thing you have to do is not have a major knee-jerk reaction,” Mayock said. “Let’s look at this kid’s body of work over four years. I think the second thing, though — and being real honest here — is that most NFL teams are going to look at that Bama team and say, ‘OK, that’s the most NFL-type team he has seen in four years, and how did he play in that game?’ I haven’t seen the tape yet, but everything I saw live tells me it wasn’t real good. So it’s going to be factored in, and teams are going to look at it and teams are going to ask him questions about it. But overall, the body of his work tells me he’s a first-round draft pick in the NFL.”
We noted before the Alabama game that Te’o was widely regarded as a first-round draft pick, but there were questions about his speed in pass coverage. If the Alabama game has raised further questions about how good he is against the run, then Te’o may end up falling further than most people expect. Even if he still looks like a first-round pick.