Draft talk: Kiper Jr. says Bears could eye OT, TEContinue reading.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper: Bears will draft Manti Te’o at No. 20
With the 20th pick in the 2013 NFL draft, the Chicago Bears will select Manti Te’o of the University of Notre Dame. So says long-time ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr.
”I did the projection last night late and I just looked at all the angles and I just think Chicago is where it’s going to fall,” Kiper, Jr. said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday morning. ”I tried to get him down to Minnesota, because it makes so much sense. The Vikings at 23, the Vikings pick again at 25. They desperately need a middle linebacker. A big hole at that position. It would be perfect for what they do there.”
Kiper, Jr. predicted Te’o will be a productive NFL player. ”He should have a very good career — whether it will be great or not is debatable,” he said.
He compared Te’o to former Lions and Bills linebacker Chris Spielman, whom Kiper considers one of his biggest mis-evaluations in his 35 years of scouting the draft. Kiper, Jr. had Spielman pegged as a fourth-round pick. The Lions took him 29th overall in the second round — and became a 10-year starter and four-time Pro Bowl player.
”Same thing [with Te'o] — great production, not a great 40 [time],” Kiper, Jr. said. ”Chris Spielman had a heckuva career in the NFL. Te’o can have that type of career. His 40-time improved from 4.82 to anywhere from 4.69 to 4.74 when he ran that second 40 … at his pro day. I think [he goes to] Chicago at 20 — if not, the latest he falls is to Minnesota at 23.”
The Vikings’ interest in Te’o is fairly obvious. General manager Rick Spielman — the former Bears director of pro personnel who also is the brother of Chris Spielman — was the only GM to attend Notre Dame’s pro day on March 27. And the Vikings have had success with Notre Dame athletes in recent years: safety Harrison Smith (first round, 29th overall) and cornerback Robert Blanton (fifth round) in 2012; tight end Kyle Rudolph (second round, 43rd overall) in 2011; and center John Sullivan (sixth round, 187th overall) in 2008.
”It’ll be interesting to see if Minnesota — knowing that Chicago could have interest, the Giants could have an interest at 19 — tries to move up a little bit to get Te’o, especially ahead of a team in their own division, with Chicago having the same need area. That’s an interesting dynamic when you get two teams in the same division and you’ve got the same player — Te’o — fitting both spots tremendously well.”
For what it’s worth, though Kiper’s record as a draft analyst is well respected, he has correctly predicted the Bears’ pick only twice in the past 20 years — Brian Urlacher at No. 9 in 2000 and Cedric Benson at No. 4 in 2005.
But there are many circumstances involved in those predictions, some of which are out of his control. Kiper has had more hits than misses with players he’s had pegged going to the Bears in recent mock drafts. Since 2000, they are:
2000 — Brian Urlacher, S/LB, New Mexico
2001* –Koren Robinson, WR, N.C. State
2002 — Levi Jones, OT, Arizona State
2003 –Terrell Suggs, DE, Arizona State
2004 — Vince Wilfork, DT, Miami
2005 –Cedric Benson, RB, Texas
2006 –Richard Marshall, CB, Fresno State
2007 — Justin Blalock, G, Texas
2008 –Chris Johnson, RB, East Carolina
2011 –Derrek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
2012 –Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
*(In 2001, Kiper, Jr. had previous mock drafts with the Bears taking Missouri DE Justin Smith and Texas Christian RB LaDainian Tomlinson. But both players moved up and ended up being drafted fourth and fifth, ahead of the Bears at No. 8)