By Ernie Palladino
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The fact that the Giants went fishing for a draft prospect last Thursday and Friday shouldn’t surprise anybody. They have already brought in several possibilities, and will bring in a whole bunch more before commissioner Roger Goodell kicks off the first round April 25.
This particular variety raised eyebrows, though. Manti Te’o, the Notre Dame linebacker, Heisman Trophy runnerup, and “Catfishing” victim, was in for a visit that the Giants considered something well short of a joke. Reports seem to indicate they have a real interest in drafting the inside backer.
That’s probably not going to happen, though. For one thing, Te’o doesn’t have a whole lot of speed, and the Giants need that at middle linebacker to bulk up the run defense. The signing of Dan Connor and the existence of Mark Herzlich on the depth chart offer two solid, though not spectacular, options over an undersized, prospective middle linebacker.
On top of that, the Giants would have to be awfully cold-hearted to draft the kid. They’d be doing him a huge disservice considering the unseemliness of his backstory.
In case anyone has forgotten, Te’o was hoodwinked into falling in love with a fictitious beauty who met with an early demise, first leaving him heartbroken, then confused, and finally humiliated on the biggest public stage anyone could imagine.
The kid handled himself well in front of the press at the NFL Combine, and undoubtedly has impressed the general managers who have since tried to pry into his head as they would any other prospect in which they intend to invest millions.
But to put the kid in a Giants jersey, place him in front of this town’s press? The headline writers would eat him alive. The columnists, not necessarily the warmest and fuzziest among America’s Fourth Estate, would turn themselves inside-out to develop new and ingenious plays on the “Catfishing” reference.
Imagine the uproar if the Giants used their 19th pick overall to draft him in the first round? By next Friday, there would be a whole “Where’s Manti” campaign happening.
More than likely, this is more of a smokescreen. That sort of stuff goes on at this point of the year, you know. The Giants have turned that practice into an art form. They’ll bring in every first-round talent they’re NOT going to draft.
Aaron Ross wasn’t brought in before he was drafted in 2007. Neither was Kenny Phillips the next year. Hakeem Nicks and Jason Pierre-Paul were not among the 30 non-local visits the Giants were allowed in 2009 and 2010. They keep the real high-round targets away, since they have already researched them to death.
Some teams have declared Te’o a first-round talent, and no less than draft expert Mel Kiper ranks him among the top 32 prospects. But at least one scouting service has him falling to Chicago in the second round, one spot behind the Giants at No. 49.
That would be a better place for him, as would just about any other city than New York.
Would Manti get eaten alive in New York? Sound off in the comments…