No Hoax: Giants Should Call On Manti Te'o
Prepare yourselves, I'm about to go against popular opinion with this next statement: I think the New York Giants should draft Manti Te'o with the 19th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft this Thursday night if he's still available. Allow me to explain myself.
For almost all of the 2012 college football season, Te'o was not only a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, but was also thought by many to be a surefire top-10 draft pick because of his athleticism, his dynamic play and his above-average football IQ — an invaluable combo of traits for a linebacker. Then, a little something happened that I like to refer to as "Girlfriend Gate" and, suddenly, almost overnight, Te'o became the laughing stock of the football world and the punchline for countless jokes. I'll admit that I got in on the ribbing as well, and even made a few jokes about how Te'o would fit right in with the New York Jets and their traveling circus of headlines and audio clips.
But then I gave it a little more thought. I thought about what position the Giants most need to improve going into the 2013 season (linebacker), I thought about the type of player that Te'o is and I thought about how long it's been since the Giants have had a true playmaker at the linebacker position (too long). Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Te'o would be a pretty solid value pick for the New York Giants should he be available at No. 19.
Apparently, I'm not the only one who seems to think so. Te'o visited the Giants and worked out with the team on April 12, and received a ringing endorsement from defensive captain Justin Tuck. Tuck, a fellow Notre Dame alum, seemed impressed by the young linebacker, and made the point that if it weren't for all of the drama surrounding the girlfriend hoax, no one would be questioning his skills as a football player.
When asked about Te'o on ESPN New York 98.7 FM, Tuck was quoted as saying, "If we are lucky enough to have him, I think it is a step in the right direction. He is going to be a pretty good player." Tuck added that he would have no problem with mentoring him on how to be a leader in the locker room as well as on the field. "Say he does end up with us, hopefully that is something I can help him with,” Tuck continued. “I can move the conversation on and say, 'Listen man, he made a mistake.' Hopefully, wherever he ends up, there is a vet guy with that same mentality because the guy can play football."
From a football standpoint, Te'o would make sense for the Giants. He's a playmaking linebacker who excels in stopping the run, which is exactly what the Giants need after finishing 25th in the league against the run last season. He can read and react, and he was one of the top players in the nation in tackles last season. Te'o can also drop back in pass coverage as evidenced by his seven interceptions last year, and he can cover just about any tight end or running back in the second level.
Jerry Reese has a history of taking the best player on the board, regardless of position. As it turns out, if Manti Te'o is available for the Giants at No. 19, he'll not only likely be the best player on the board, but he'll also fill a hole for the Giants defense at a major position, accomplishing the rare feat of taking the best available player and drafting for need at the same time.