Opinion: After Monday, No. 9 Is Way Too Soon for Te’o

Over the past few months we’ve seen a lot of buzz among Jets fans about looking to the draft to solve some of the Jets inside linebacker problems.  With the Irish having a great year and Manti Teo having a great year for the Irish, his name seemed to come up over and over again.

Now after the collapse of Notre Dame on Monday night, Manti Te’o’s draft stock is tumbling, and over on the NFL Draft Blog on ESPN, Steve Muench shared his notes from the BCS title game and we wanted to pass them on.

ILB Manti Te’o (95; 6-1, 248)
There’s no sugarcoating it: Te’o struggled in this game. For starters, he didn’t show great instincts. He was late locating the ball and didn’t recover in time to make the tackle on Lacy’s first touchdown run. He also bit on play-action and was beaten on Williams’ first-quarter touchdown catch. Finally, Te’o failed to wrap up as a tackler, and I counted at least three notable missed tackles in the first half.

Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.com

Let me preface what I am about to say by noting that we’re just coming out of a season where the inside linebackers on this team cost about $18 million.   I’ve watched some Notre Dame football during the season and then the BCS title game. I’ve seen enough of Te’o to say that I categorically do not want to use the 9th pick in the draft to find the team their next inside linebacker.  Te’o is a good player, don’t get me wrong, and might still get drafted in the first round, but it’s widely agreed that the SEC is the best collection of NCAA football talent in the country.  Alabama is was 2012′s best team in the SEC.  So if the SEC is just a taste of the NFL, how will Te’o fare then at the next level if he’s missing tackles and such in the biggest game of his life?

No disrespect to middle/inside linebackers, but the role just doesn’t have the value that it did in the 60s & 70s when most teams were run first.  The New York Times has the definitive article on the subject that was written a few years back.  Instead, many teams need to run nickel packages more than ever in the modern NFL and when talking about 3-4 hybrid teams like the Jets, that means pulling a  linebacker.  Bart Scott only played just over 53% of snaps this year, yet counted against the cap like a player who should have been playing well over that figure.  2009 and 2010 was a special pairing between Harris & Scott, but with the additions that the team has made in the last two drafts to the defensive line the Jets don’t need to spend as much to find their next inside linebacker.  In a draft full of offensive line, outside linebacker and skill position talent, taking Te’0 there in the first round wouldn’t be the right move for a team looking to rebuild all over the team at some of the more critical spots.