Perhaps no other team had been linked to notable Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o more than the Minnesota Vikings. Mock drafts repeatedly had the Vikings selecting him at No. 23 or No. 25 if he was available, and reports earlier this week said Minnesota might have to move up five spots, ahead of Chicago Bears and the New York Giants, to have a chance at Te'o.
It all turned out to be a bunch of pre-draft hogwash.
The Vikings are still without a middle linebacker and Te'o was still available after 32 picks went off the board – including three by the Vikings. Eventually the San Diego Chargers made the trade up to No. 38 overall in the second round to select him. But all that isn't to say the Vikings weren't interested in Te'o, one of the most well-chronicled draft stories in some time after an Internet hoax brought terms like "catfishing" into the mainstream social media lexicon. They just weren't interested enough to invest a first-round pick in him.
Minnesota did a lot of research on Te'o, according to a source, in addition to general manager Rick Spielman reportedly having dinner with Te'o before his pro day and interviewing him at the NFL Scouting Combine.
But with Sharrif Floyd tumbling from what was expected to be a top-five pick down to the Vikings at No. 23 and Xavier Rhodes fitting the Vikings' need for a big, physical cornerback, they had a unique opportunity with two higher-rated prospects. When they had an chance for one of the two most athletic receivers in the draft by moving back into the first round, it took Te'o out of the equation for the Vikings, despite mock drafts fairly consistently predicting he would be one of the team's choices.
"I think Te'o is an extremely talented football player that is going to have a great NFL career, and after being around Te'o, he's an even better person than football player in the time we spent with him as well," Spielman said Friday as the Vikings sat without any second- or third-round picks after trading them to get Patterson at No. 29 overall. "You know, just didn't work out (with Te'o) but we were able to get some significant needs filled with some players on our board that we felt were very talented, but I don't have any question in my mind that Manti Te'o's going to be a heck of a football player in the NFL."
Before the second round kicked off, Spielman declined to say if he was surprised Te'o was still available.
"I don't know because I don't know what other people think," Spielman said. "I can just tell you what we thought of him and we thought very highly of him."
But they obviously didn't think higher of Te'o than they did Floyd, Rhodes or Patterson.
Still, the Vikings are without a starting middle linebacker, at least one with experience at that position in their defensive scheme. Spielman reiterated that he thinks moving Erin Henderson, their weakside linebacker the last two years, to middle linebacker is a possibility. He also said he believes the Vikings have a chance to find a potential starter there in the fourth round or later – moving back up into the second or third round was unlikely, he acknowledged.
"That will all sort itself out as we go through. And like I said, Erin gives us some flexibility," Spielman said. "Once we get out full draft class in and get going next week, and then again in the OTAs and minicamps and training camp, that will sort itself out."
Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
Spielman explains the Te'o decision
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