Darling status disappears rather quickly these days. In this instance, the fault lies with Manti Te'o.
It wasn't so long ago that Te'o, the senior leader and starting middle linebacker for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, was presumed to be a top flight NFL prospect. A capable three-down linebacker, his on-field ability combined with off-the-chart intangibles to create the perfect defensive centerpiece for team's sorely lacking such qualities. If Luke Kuechly went in the top 10 only a year before, how high would Te'o go?
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One fake girlfriend later, Te'o is in a freefall. Of course, teams will bite on pure talent in the end, character concerns or not. But it will affect his status, at least we think it will. The NFL Combine, a pro day workout, personal interviews and physicals all have yet to take place, which means his stock could go in any direction. But it's clear that at least the possibility is there for the Kansas City Chiefs to take Te'o -- in the second round.
In SB Nation's most recent mock draft, Te'o fell to the bottom of the first round, so it's hardly a stretch to see him available at the top of the second. He can easily make up the ground he's lost in the weeks to come, but the draft can be a funny thing. Te'o falling out of the first round is definitely within the realm of possibility.
The question is whether or not the team would be interested. The Chiefs have many needs, but inside linebacker has become an annual point of concern and the death of Jovan Belcher cements the need for a major acquisition in the middle. Cornerback or even quarterback would be the greater issue, depending on how the team spends the first overall selection, but expect Andy Reid and John Dorsey to take the best player available. If Te'o is on the board, he could be that fit.
The Chiefs have already has strong performers across the board at linebacker with Tamba Hali and Justin Houston on the outside and Pro Bowler Derrick Johnson in the middle. Yet both Super Bowl teams boasted two strong performers each at inside linebacker -- NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis for the 49ers and Daniel Ellerbe and Ray Lewis for the Ravens. Te'o would give the Chiefs a vital three-down player in the middle and would shore up a long-term weakness.
Any move the Chiefs make will leave a hole left to plug no matter what they do. A team that finished with the worst record in the NFL cannot fill every hole with every choice. However, given the solid slate of cornerbacks available in free agency, the team could try to grab a middle linebacker in the draft. If Te'o falls, he'd be a great grab for Kansas City in the middle.