Long before Manti Te’o became the punch line for online dating he was being talked up as a potential top 5 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft putting him right in the Raiders’ wheelhouse. Then a hideous performance against Alabama under college football’s brightest lights had me and many others rethinking his draft stock.
Then the most bizarre story perhaps in modern sports history broke yesterday when Deadspin blew the doors off the fraudulent narrative of his harrowing journey through a tumultuous season that featured the deaths of two loved ones on the same day.
By now you know all the details. If not do yourself a favor and go to Deadspin now. It is a must read for many reasons not the least of which is the ominous warning of this digital era and the dangers of the media falling in love with a story before doing its due diligence.
For Te’o his nightmare is just starting. The draft vetting is by far the most grueling job interview the overwhelming majority of the prospects who enter the process will ever endure. Absolutely everything is on the table and nothing is out of bounds as million dollar investments are at stake.
So if Manti thinks he’s going through the ringer now wait until he has to sit face to face with men like Jerry Jones who will have no problem engaging in a line of questioning ESPN was too awestruck to engage in.
With that said the Oakland Raiders have no business drafting Te’o in any round. No matter how far his draft stock falls he’s not worth the risk and he certainly is no longer a safe bet. Coming off of the Rolando McClain debacle the last thing this franchise needs is another three years wasted on a player in a position of leadership with no true leadership qualities.
For me, I don’t connect Te’o’s odd decisions off the field with his performance on it. I’m already on the record saying his performance against an Alabama O-line that featured plenty of pro prospects was all I needed to know that he was big risk as a top 5 pick. So that just is what it is.
Now as for his fake girlfriend and one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated since the Baron of Arizona all I can say is this.
When you are a professional athlete you become a target for predators of all breeds. There are family members and friends that will come out of nowhere looking to ride your gravy train. There are opportunistic “entrepreneurs” looking to use your cash for their nefarious purposes. Then there are the inherent dangers of being a twenty-something millionaire.
If Te’o could be fooled by nothing more than text messages, e-mails and Tweets then how is he going to navigate a world inhabited by slick talking suits and seductive skirts?
And that’s just taking Te’o and Notre Dame at face value that they were indeed fooled. We haven’t even dipped a toe into those dark waters Deadspin shone the light on suggesting Manti himself was involved in the ordeal.
Simply put Te’o is not the type of headache the Raiders need any longer. This franchise needs leaders and that means both on and off the field. What this franchise does not need is unnecessary distraction which Te’o now brings with him everywhere he goes. What cannot happen is for the Raiders to again miss on drafting a player that plays a position of great importance.
Are Te’o’s faults on par with those of Rolando McClain? Perhaps not. But there is enough smoke there to know a fire is burning. If Reggie McKenzie is serious about changing the culture in Oakland then he cannot ignore a story like this. Hidden beneath the salacious nature of the Te’o story is the fact that this a young man that will be in for a major culture shock once he hits the NFL if we’re to believe he is this gullible. If, on the other hand, he was involved in crafting the hoax then it speaks to a very selfish and deceptive nature in stark contrast to what we were led to believe he was.
Either way, this is one name that should be completely removed from the Raiders draft board.