MIKE O'HARA

O'Hara: How could Manti Te'o's combine stats transition to a pro career?

Posted Mar 1, 2013

To project how Te’o’s limited combine workouts might translate into a pro career, Detroitlions.com columnist Mike O'Hara looks at how four veteran linebackers, all on the Lions’ roster last season, performed at the combine in their draft year.

Is it too early to consider Manti Te’o a Combine flop? Or is it right on time, based on his time in the 40-yard dash in the Combine?

Te’o might as well start his own 24-hour “All-Te’o-News Network” and keep the one-man news, information and gossip loop running from now until his name goes off the board sometime after the NFL draft begins on April 25.

He went to Indy with something to prove – that his lackluster performance in Notre Dame’s 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS championship game was an aberration and not indicative of how he played throughout his career at Notre Dame.

Te’o didn’t elevate his status with his time of 4.82 seconds in the 40-yard dash. The 40 is considered the benchmark drill in testing prospects, and only six linebackers ran slower than Te’o at the Combine. The standing broad jump is another important test because it tests leg explosion. Te’o’s jump of 9 feet, 5 inches was underwhelming, too.

Based on the reaction to his 40 – and the fact that Te’o weighed in at a relatively light 241 pounds – you’d have thought that Te’o might as well have skipped the rest of the Combine and headed back to South Bend to begin work on his next career. Forget football. He’s too slow, right?

Not really.

To project how Te’o’s limited combine workouts (he didn’t do everything) might translate into a pro career, I looked up the rookie test results of the four veteran linebackers who were on the Lions’ roster last season – starters Stephen Tulloch, Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy, and top backup Ashlee Palmer.

Here’s how they performed in their draft year:

Stephen Tulloch

Tulloch

Draft year: 2006, fourth round Titans.

Workout stats: 5-11, 241 pounds, 4.84 in the 40, 9-5 standing broad jump, 27 reps of 225 pounds.

Career: Tulloch has never missed a game in seven seasons. He’s been a full-time starter the last five years, the last two with the Lions.

Durant

Draft year: 2007, second round Jaguars.

Workout stats: 6-2, 230 pounds. 4.51 in the 40, 10-1 standing broad jump, 25 reps of 225 pounds. His test results were among the best of his position.

Career:  Durant has been a full-time starter, when healthy, throughout his career. After two seasons with the Lions, Durant is eligible for free-agency on March 12.

Levy

Draft year: 2009, third round by the Lions.

Workout stats:  6-2, 236 pounds. 4.56  in the 40, 9-11 standing broad jump, bench press result unavailable.

Career: Levy has been a starter, when healthy, in the middle and at outside linebacker all four years. He is also eligible for free agency.

Palmer

Draft year: 2009 – undrafted. Signed by Buffalo as a free agent. Signed by Lions in 2010.

Workout stats: 6-2, 233, 4.59 in the 40. Other results not available.

Career: Mostly a special-teams player and occasional starter. Before the end of last season, he re-signed for 2013.

Conclusion, Te’o vs. the Lions: Tulloch is the only one who did not outperform Te’o in testing. Tulloch’s 40 time was slightly slower. Both did 9-5 in the broad jump.

Durant and Palmer all had faster 40 times than Te’o. Durant has been a starter throughout his career while Palmer has not.

Tulloch has been more durable and starting more games than Durant or Levy, even though both had better test results.

The bottom line on what Te’o’s Combine workout means is that there is no bottom line -- yet. His Pro Day in late March gives him a chance to run a faster 40. After that, he’ll await the draft.

If he wants, Te’o can have his own network up and running by then.