Not so for Brandt, who has Te’o rated as the 20th-best player available.
“I wish he was just a little faster,” Brandt said. Though his scouting report of Te’o also includes, “plays faster than his times.”
Te’o’s lack of straight-line speed could be a problem in man-to-man coverage, but both Brandt and Savage agree Te’o has shown good enough instincts to hold up well in zone coverage. As long he isn’t limited to playing only running downs, Te’o can warrant a first-round selection.
“I think in some respects he’s going to end up being drafted in the range that would have been expected regardless of what had transpired after the regular season,” said Savage, who was general manager of the Browns from 2005-08 and also worked with the Ravens and Eagles.
“The vast majority of player personnel people saw him as a good player, but not as a great player.”
Savage compared Te’o to D’Qwell Jackson of the Browns and DeMeco Ryans of the Eagles. Both were drafted early in the second round.
“(Te’o) did not have the explosive burst and hitting ability that you saw in Ray Lewis, Jon Beason, Jonathan Vilma or Luke Keuchly,” Savage said.
Keuchly was taken ninth overall last season by Carolina and went on to become the defensive rookie of the year.
As far as character questions related to the fake girlfriend hoax, Brandt said that issue was put to rest when Te’o answered dozens of questions from reporters at the combine.
Brandt said he spent time with Te’o at the combine and came away impressed.
“I thought he was a very bright guy, quality individual. Everything about him I thought was upscale,” Brandt said.
Savage said he didn’t get a chance to meet Te’o, who turned down an invite to the Senior Bowl, but heard that his interviews with team officials at the combine went well — and that teams did plenty of digging into his background.
Bears GM Phil Emery told the Chicago Tribune: “I found Manti to be a very good person, a very squared-away guy.”
Savage figures there will be an initial media “circus” for whatever team drafts Te’o, and that team needs a plan to deal with it. Some teams might not feel it’s worth the hassle, but ultimately the decision on whether to draft Te’o won’t be much different from any other prospect.
“The majority of teams have evaluated him,” Savage said, “and if he is the next best player on their board when it’s their pick, they’ll take him.”