Let me put this to rest. Despite all of the commentary coming from those outside the league following [URL="http://insider.espn.go.com/nfl/draft/player/_/id/29240/manti-teo"]Manti Te'o[/URL]'s combine performance, among those inside the game that I've spoken to, no one has soured on him significantly.
Teams understand he's been under incredible pressure and has been for the past month after allegedly becoming the victim of a hoax. Step back away from the story and think about how players perform for a second. Coaches and GMs are constantly preaching about eliminating distractions. There's a reason for that. In order to perform well as an athlete you need to be single-minded, focused on the job at hand, right down to the minute details. If that focus is shattered, if you're distracted, you do not perform as well. In an environment like the combine, where inches and tenths of a second are scrutinized, details matter.
Inside the game, all of us rely on tape, not on the combine as be-all, end-all. Sometimes we get caught up in the event and the excitement and make more of the combine than those evaluating these prospects. To them, the game film shows you what kind of football player he is.
Absent the 40 time, Te'o's tests actually solidified what most thought about him. He is instinctive, tough, a good tackler and more quick than fast. Everyone is looking forward to his 40 in South Bend on March 26, and that will be the dispositive piece in the puzzle relative to speed.
The fluctuations in his draft stock I've been hearing about don't make much sense to me. The notion that a player's draft stock can change in a day, or after a single drill, is as much of a hoax as the one Te'o's been caught up in.
My feeling -- one shared by many of my colleagues in the league -- is that when all is said and done, he's in the lower quarter of the first round, maybe the top of second depending on his final 40 time. If he drops down in that range, however, he'll provide great value.