Manti Te’o has supposedly been the victim of a hoax involving a fake girlfriend who passed away. It was her dying words that he not miss a game and play in her honor that captivated a nation. His public profile certainly benefited as he burst onto the national scene, won multiple awards and invited to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Many had Te’o as the top linebacker in the draft and projected to go highly in the first round, so the question now is whether or not this girlfriend hoax will hurt his draft stock.
We’ve scene how countless off the field issues are used to negatively and positively impact a player’s draft stock. Randy Moss and Dez Bryant’s stock dropped after off the field issues deterred potential teams. Everyone wants to get examine a players character, ethics and morals when taking them in the draft, especially in the first round, and this is a character issue for Manti Te’o.
ProfootballTalk.com asked a NFL source with extensive knowledge of the pre draft process on how it could affect Te’o's draft stock.
“It could be ugly,” one league source told PFT.
Te’o and Notre Dame is maintaining that he played no part in the hoax and have painted him as a victim in this situation. But with social media and a variety of ways for people to interact on the internet many people are suspicious of a relationship where someone has never seen or interacted with the person via video chatting services like Skype and FaceTime.
“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online,” Te’o said in a statement via PFT. “We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.
“To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.”
Notre Dame reiterated what Te’o said, that he is a victim.
“On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia,” Notre Dame said via a statement on their Facebook page.
But the answer to whether or not Te’o's draft stock will plummet lies in how he handles this situation and bad publicity, arguably for the first time since he’s been in the national spotlight. As mentioned early we regularly see players draft stock drop because of off the field issues and used examples of Randy Moss and Dez Bryant.
Another example referenced by PFT lies with Reggie Bush, who saw his draft stock drop after allegations that he received money, namely free rent, from a San Diego group that wanted to represent him in NFL, an NCAA violation. The Houston Texans insist however that they passed on Reggie Bush in the 2006 draft because of football reasons and not off the field issues and more importantly how he handled the situation.
Ultimately public perception of Te’o could play a role in his draft stock. Is he perceived as honest and truth telling? Or is he perceived as a perpetrator of a scheme to get himself in the national spotlight to benefit in the draft?
In a lot of ways, Manti Te’o's 2012 season wasn’t much better than his performance in previous seasons. His total tackles had dropped from 133 in 2010 to 128 in 2011 to 113 in the 2012 season. His tackles for lost dropped from 13.5 in 2011 to 5.5 in 2012 and even in 2010 he had more tackles for loss with 9 and a half. His sacks dropped from 5 in 2011 to 1.5 last season. But the notable difference is his all of his 7 career interceptions came in the 2012 campaign, a glamorous statistic.
So certainly you could argue that his play dropped off this season yet he was showered with awards and national attention, in part due to the story of overcoming his girlfriend’s death. A comparison to Dat Nguyen’s 1998 season at Texas A&M shows you how the spot light helped Te’o.
Dat Nguyen’s 1998 team won the Big 12 and beat #1 Kansas State and #2 Nebraska along the way. His stats:
20 tackles for loss
4 forced fumbles
So only time will tell whether his draft stock will be impacted negatively because of this scandal and if he can overcome it.
Do you think Manti Te’o's draft stock will plummet? Let us know in the comments.