Call it the luck of the Irish, or don't, but the Buffalo Bills have a legitimate shot at yet another top-tier prospect out of South Bend in this year’s draft. This time, however, it's a little complicated. (photo: Neon Tommy, Flickr)
A majority of last year's top mock drafts had Buffalo selecting Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd with the 10th overall pick. The Bills went the other direction, however, bulking up their secondary with cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Now, with the situation reversed, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper believes linebacker and Heisman finalist Manti Te'o could be a good fit in Buffalo.
Te'o’s possible future in Western New York, or anywhere else, however, will depend on how the team feels regarding the bizarre news that came out Wednesday involving his fictitious late girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. Deadspin reported Wednesday that Kekua, along with her tragic death late last year due to leukemia, was completely made up. The story, which is too insane to describe at length here, could bring into serious question the gallant persona that has grown around Te'o since the start of his senior season.
Incredibly weird stuff aside, prior to the Deadspin piece, Kiper said Te'o "doesn't have elite athleticism, but he has elite instincts and elite intangibles, and will become the leader of a defense by the end of training camp," according to buffalobills.com. Kiper also noted Te'o's ability to make plays with his hands, something that, combined with his solid coverage skills, could certainly help the Bills' pass defense and open-field tackling game.
Based on what we've seen from him on the field, using the eighth overall pick on Te'o certainly wouldn't be a waste, particularly given the scarcity at quarterback in this year's draft class, which happens to be the team's No. 1 need at this point.
GM Buddy Nix pledged to bring in young talent at the position by any means necessary, so whether he decides to do that via draft or through free agency may dictate Te'o’s future. Kiper did not have any quarterbacks in the first round of his mock draft as of Tuesday.
Te'o helped lead college football’s top team to the National Championship game, where it lost in crushing fashion to Alabama 42-14.
A quick tidbit: According to the Bills’ website, the team signed two free agents to Reserve/Future contracts on Wednesday, tight end Joe Sawyer and Dominique Ellis. Sawyer’s addition is likely due to the extended absence projected for starter Scott Chandler, who recently underwent knee surgery, while Ellis’s addition will bulk up a secondary that looks primed to lose Jairus Byrd to free agency. Both have been without a job in the NFL since their respective drafts.