The Chicago Bears sent Jeff Shiver, director of college scouting, to Notre Dame's pro day this afternoon. Shiver got an up-close look at the long-awaited 40-yard dash of projected first-round linebacker Manti Te'o.
Te'o ran a 4.75 at the NFL Scouting Combine and ran a 4.71 in South Bend today. It was a slight improvement, although it's unlikely to change his draft stock. In the Bears' 4-3 system, middle linebackers are often asked to drop into a deep middle zone, which is where the 40 time is applicable. Brian Urlacher ran a 4.57, but Te'o's time should still be plenty fast, especially when you consider the 40 times of Nick Roach and Lance Briggs (both 4.75).
So while his 40 time has importance, his performance on the field gives a much clearer picture of Te'o's talents. For most of his senior season, he was physical when plays were run at him, yet also showed good speed and quickness to shoot gaps and chase down ball carriers. In coverage, he demonstrated outstanding awareness, picking up seven interceptions in 2012. Those are the aspects of Te'o that Shiver and the rest of the Bears' scouting staff will evaluate, much more so than his 40 time.
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If they like what they see, the Bears could select Te'o in the first round with the 20th overall selection. Despite this week signing two veteran linebackers to start alongside Briggs, D.J. Williams and James Anderson, Chicago still needs to get younger at the position. All three starters will be 30 or older before the bye this year, meaning none are long-term options. Te'o, last year's Heisman Trophy runner up, could be the player Emery hand picks to replace Urlacher and serve as the new face of the franchise.
Also working out today was tight end Tyler Eifert, another first-round prospect. Eifert had a strong showing at the combine last month and chose to stand on his numbers today. He did participate in the workouts and pass-catching drills, where he reportedly looked smooth in his routes and showed good hands.
Eifert was considered by many to be a prime target of the Bears before the team signed Martellus Bennett on the first day of free agency. With Bennett now on board, Eifert becomes a less likely candidate in the first.
Among the 14 former Fighting Irish players working out today, the remaining draftable prospects include center Braxton Cave, safeties Zeke Motta and Jamoris Slaughter, and running backs Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood.
Cave is the most likely to end up in Chicago. In 2012, he was a third-team AP All-American and finalist for the Rimington Trophy, awarded annually to the nation's top center. Cave is considered a fifth- or sixth-round pick due to his struggles at the Senior Bowl. He's a four-year starter whose experience could make him attractive to the Bears late in the draft, as Roberto Garza's contract is up after this season.
The Bears already signed a former Note Dame safety this week, Tom Zbikowski, and are flush at the position. It's unlikely Motta or Slaughter, both considered seventh-round prospects, will end up in Chicago.
Wood and Riddick are both talented running backs. Riddick has more power, while Wood is quicker and more explosive. Both have great hands and are considered as sixth-round prospects. If the Bears select either player, he'll challenge another former Notre Dame player, Armando Allen, who is currently the club's No. 3 ball carrier.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.