Football wise, let's forget for just a moment that Notre Dame's star linebacker Manti Te'o was apparently involved in an elaborate scheme in which he was "Catfished," and led to believe a woman he was talking with on the internet who eventually became his girlfriend was never real.
Whether or not Te'o was complicit in a bizarre scheme designed for publicity or just an innocent bystander; regardless of if the University of Notre Dame handled the news properly or not, that doesn't change the fact that the Detroit Lions should still do their diligence in considering him for selection. After all, Te'o is really still a football player, and this is a real football article.
Plenty of people may now disagree with his character, but Te'o's stats and play speak for themselves. He was a tackling machine, collecting 111 in the 2012-13 season, along with seven interceptions. He impacted the game in a way few players did, looking like the most dominant defensive player in the college game at times. As perhaps one of the most decorated players in college football history, Te'o took home the Bednarik, Butkus, Nagurski, Lombardi and Walter Camp awards this offseason alone. There's no arguing with that hardware.
Whatever happened off the field in this constantly developing situation is certainly strange and disappointing. However, Te'o has not been convicted of a crime, nor was he ever alleged of being a terrible teammate. Did he unknowingly lie? Perhaps. Did he make a big mistake? Yes. Find me a player declaring for the 2013 NFL Draft that hasn't made one. It just so happens this particular mistake has been magnified on the national stage because of the media's focus.
The Lions, coming off a woeful defensive year, aren't in the position to discount anybody who could help on that side of the ball, no matter what the punch line might be if they were selected. Detroit might decide that Te'o's talent base isn't a fit for their particular defensive scheme. Regardless, crossing Te'o off the list due to this situation alone would be incredibly narrow minded. Bad things can happen to good people, and good people sometimes will get duped. Some even make terrible decisions. It happens.
Remember Vontaze Burfict? He was the poster child of who not to draft in 2012. After an aggressive (and perhaps justified) smear campaign following a poor combine showing and questions about his character, Burfict took his medicine and signed as undrafted free agent. All he proceeded to do was lead the Cincinnati Bengals in tackling last season as a rookie. Talking to scouts in January of 2012, you wouldn't think that would ever happen. Burfict was responsible for his own undoing, too. He made his bed, laid in it, and now, thanks to his play, few people remember all the jokes about his slow 40 yard dash.
Te'o will have that same opportunity, and football-wise, someone will score a serious talent regardless of all this noise, no matter how deep it eventually may go or if Te'o deeply lied or not. The NFL is about winning first and foremost. Anybody who argues otherwise isn't telling the truth. If Te'o gives a team the best chance to win, he'll still be drafted, perhaps surprisingly high in the minds of some. What if the Lions are that team? Well, that would be their own team building prerogative. On the football field, it might not be terribly bad.
There's a famous quote which reads, "I'd trust Bill Clinton with the economy, but not with my daughter." You might not trust Te'o with your computer, but I'm guessing you'd still trust his ability to impact a football game defensively. That, in of itself, should keep him firmly in the mix at some point during April's draft.
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