By the time the calendar hit October Raider Nation was already looking forward to the draft. We all knew the season was pretty much doomed the second Greg Knapp was hired but our worst fears were realized a mere month into the season.
One name that many members of the Nation had high on their draft boards was Notre Dame middle linebacker Manti Te’o. At the time it made a lot of sense for the Raiders to be looking at upgrading their defense by taking Te’o high in round one. The awful performance of Oakland’s defense combined with the complete lack of production and leadership from Rolando McClain made Te’o an attractive prospect.
Coming out of high school Te’o was one of the nation’s top recruits and his Heisman candidacy as a senior only cemented his legacy.
However after last night’s horrible performance by Te’o and his fellow Irish defenders in the snooze fest that was the supposed BCS title game it could be time to re-think his draft stock.
First and foremost Reggie McKenzie made too many rookie mistakes in his first year on the job. Any patience that was expected from owner Mark Davis went out the window in the second half of this lost season. So that means McKenzie can’t afford a bust with a top three pick.
Before last night Te’o looked like the poor man’s Ray Lewis. A fiery leader that played sideline to sideline making plays with passionate and infectious energy.
Then Te’o ran into an Alabama O-line that is about the closest thing you’ll find to an NFL unit in college football this year. Simply put the Tide rolled right over Te’o who suddenly looked McClain-esque being a step late, taking bad angles and getting swallowed by Bama’s bullying blockers.
Now the question must be asked.
Is Te’o worth the risk at third overall?
Now its one game so it would be unfair to ignore all of what Te’o did during the season and indeed his entire collegiate career. However it is impossible to ignore how overmatched he was against NFL level talent. If this was his reaction to the first time he’s been challenged by superior talent then how will things unfold in the heat of camp where grown men duel for jobs?
Who knows where Te’o is on Oakland’s draft board. At no point has McKenzie or anyone in the organization shown the level of interest many members of Raider Nation have. But being one of the top talents in the NCAA has no doubt put Te’o in Oakland’s wheelhouse in some way.
Whether or not the Raiders were considering Te’o at third overall is unknown. But after last night the mere thought of picking him that high has got to come with a moment of pause. Te’o wasn’t alone in his struggles but he was obviously outclassed and his stock should take a hit in some way. Of course he could blow away the scouts at the combine and all this will be forgotten. That’s the draft process. For better or worse. In the case of Oakland…almost always worse these days.