Kiper: Bears likeliest to draft Manti Te'o

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. believes Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o will be the Chicago Bears' first-round pick in this year's draft.

Most draft analysts believe Manti Te'o is worthy of being selected in the first round of this year's draft. Last year's Heisman Trophy runner up has experience, size and intelligence, and he'll surely have a long career in the NFL.

Whether or not he'll be great is a question largely up for debate. It's a discussion that has raged in the Chicago area for quite some time, and has ramped up since the team and Brian Urlacher parted ways.

The question everyone is asking: Is Te'o capable of playing middle linebacker for the Chicago Bears, a team with the richest lineage of middle linebackers in NFL history? If the Bears draft him 20th overall this year, can he live up to the high standards laid forth by Bill George, Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher?

Until he puts the big-boy pads on and straps up for an NFL game, no one will know for sure if Te'o is that player.

Manti Te'o
Gary Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports

"[Te'o] should have a very good career," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said today on a media conference call. "Whether it'll be great or not obviously is debatable. But he'll have a good career."

According to Kiper, Bears fans are likeliest in the NFL to get a first-hand answer to this question.

"Where he's going to end up I think is right now going to end up being in Chicago," said Kiper. "I thought about this, I did the projection last night late and I just looked at all the angles, and I just think Chicago is where it's going to fall."

If he doesn't land in Chicago, Kiper believes he'll still end up in the NFC North as a member of the Minnesota Vikings, who have the 23rd and 25th picks in the draft.

"I tried to get him down to Minnesota because it makes so much makes sense, the Vikings at 23, the Vikings pick again at 25, they desperately need a middle linebacker. They have a big hole at that position. ] It would be perfect for what they do there. Rick Spielman, his brother Chris Spielman, same thing, great production, got great 40. Chris Spielman had a heck of a career in the NFL.

"Te'o can have that type of career. His 40 time improved from 4.82 to anywhere between 4.69 and 4.74 when he ran that second 40, which was faster than the first 40 he ran at the Pro Day.

"But I think Chicago at 20. If not, the latest I think he falls is to Minnesota at 23."

Kiper said Chicago's biggest risk is showing too much interest in Te'o, which could compel the Vikings to use one of their two first rounders to leapfrog in front of the Bears.

"It'll be interesting to see if a team like Minnesota, knowing that Chicago could have an interest, the Giants could have an interest at 19, tries to move up a little bit to get Te'o, especially ahead of a team in their own division with Chicago having the same need area.

"So that's an interesting dynamic when you get two teams in the same division and you've got the same player, Te'o, fitting both spots tremendously well."

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of 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.

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