Here’s a little report that’s bound to stir the draft speculation pot. Leslie Frazier spoke at the owners meetings and addressed the middle linebacker situation. As you know the Vikings have moved on from Jasper Brinkley and will require a new starter at Mike. Preferably that starter will have better coverage skills than occasional nickel linebacker Erin Henderson who was himself brought back on a two-year deal. Here’s what Frazier said:
We want to potentially draft someone. We need more depth at linebacker than what we currently have.
When asked if second year linebacker Audie Cole might be a fit in the middle Frazier said:
He’d be an option. We played him some there in the preseason. … We have to get someone to plug in to that position, whether it be Audie Cole or whoever it may be on our current roster or draft somebody.
Audie Cole became a minor folk hero after his preseason exploits last year but I frankly can’t see him stepping in to the starting MLB role in his second season. He’s a back-up/special teamer at best. So that leaves the Vikings almost certainly drafting a middle linebacker. The obvious name to throw out is Manti Te’o. He would seem a good schematic fit and despite the bumps in the road he’s suffered the last couple months you can’t just dismiss all he accomplished on the college gridiron.
But of course Te’o comes with some extra baggage in the form of media attention. Any organization that drafts this guy will have to ask themselves whether they want to take on the whole circus that will gather around Te’o the second he reports for camp. The Vikings have had plenty of experience with the circus and probably would like to avoid that and fly under the radar as they continue their rebuild.
But then again, after the Favre circus, how bad could the Te’o circus really be? And how long could the media frenzy really last? But of course there are other questions. You have to wonder how Te’o would be received in the locker room. How bad would the ribbing get for him? Would that be unfair pressure to put on a rookie who was also being asked to start immediately? The point has been made that Te’o would have a built-in support system on the Vikings in the form of former college teammates Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton. Maybe those guys could help smooth it over with the other players.
I’m on record saying it’s too much to take on for a guy who has other question marks. Even leaving aside the baggage, Te’o hasn’t distinguished himself in recent months. He got blown up in the national championship game. He didn’t show well at the combine. There is a perception that he got overhyped in college and will be a bust in the NFL. But you can argue the Vikings are in a good position to take a chance on him after acquiring a second first round pick in the Percy Harvin trade. The Vikes are arguably the most natural destination for him. I still would be leery, but we’ll see how the Vikings feel. Maybe they like this guy that much.