Brandt: Te'o's draft stock could plummet further

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Brandt: Te'o's draft stock could plummet further

Here's the real story: Manti Te'o's stock in the NFL draft already was sinking.

Blame his performance in the BCS title game, not any hoax or conspiracy, for that.

Still, the uncertainty surrounding Notre Dame's All-American linebacker could further hurt his draft stock, NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt said.

Brandt called the story ``something I have never witnessed'' in his half-century in pro football.

``I think some teams will say it isn't worth the problem'' to draft Te'o, said Brandt, who has the linebacker rated 19th overall in the first round.

The former Dallas Cowboys general manager added Thursday that Te'o's stock had plummeted after a poor performance in the BCS championship game.

``I don't think anybody considered him to be a top-five pick before all this happened,'' Brandt said. ``In that game against Alabama, this was like a guy who was the best shooter in the world in basketball and here comes a game and he can't even hit the backboard. His play in that game was absolutely horrible. He missed on run blitzes; guys ran over him ...''

Te'o would hardly be the first player to see his draft stock sink because of off-field issues. Last year, North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins fell to the second round after multiple run-ins with the law related to marijuana got him dismissed from Florida.

Warren Sapp in 1995 and Randy Moss in 1998 slid because of character concerns; both are now considered potential Hall of Famers.

Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said ``it's no different what the red flags are.''

``You've got to identify them,'' he said. ``You've got to research it and then you decide what impact that has on the total person in terms of his ability to play football and to manage his life.''

Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie agreed.

``It makes you go and get all the answers, cross your Ts and dot your Is and make sure,'' he said. ``With any player, you have to make sure what you're getting from a character standpoint other than his ability, his talents. Try to get to know the guy. So, yes, it will weigh in heavily.''

David Schwab, a senior executive at sports management firm Octagon, considered Te'o perhaps the most marketable player coming into this year's draft. As the face of a Notre Dame team that returned to national relevance, the Heisman Trophy runner-up had the name recognition of few college stars.

``Compassionate'' and ``heartwarming'' were some of the adjectives Schwab would have used to describe his image.

Now, that persona will depend on the details that emerge about the story of a girlfriend who didn't exist.

``If he truly had nothing to do with it, I think the long-term damage is zero,'' said Schwab, who specializes in matching companies to celebrities.

In the short term, it's unlikely to see Te'o promoting any products, because a public appearance would turn into an impromptu news conference about the hoax. If uncertainty lingers about exactly what happened, Schwab said, many companies may hesitate to sign him.

But even if Te'o is implicated in the hoax, he could still eventually turn into a sponsor's dream if he blossoms as an NFL star.

``If you perform on the field, you quickly become marketable,'' Schwab said.

Look no further than Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker who was charged with murder in 2000. The charges were dropped after Lewis agreed to testify against two other men and he subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. This week he's a beloved figure heading into the AFC championship with retirement looming.

Teams may be less likely to take a risk on Te'o in the draft if they don't believe he can become a dominant player.

Brandt noted how the inside linebacker position doesn't carry as much importance in the NFL as it once did. In the last 10 years, only four inside linebackers were taken in the first round, although one of them was perennial All-Pro Patrick Willis of San Francisco.

``I think it would be different if it was a quarterback who would change the game,'' he said. ``But linebackers are a piece to the puzzle; they don't solve the puzzle. Other than Ray Lewis, I don't know of any linebacker you say, `We've got to have this guy.'

``(Inside) linebackers are not as important as they used to be. We're down to one or two first-round linebackers now.''

Brandt wondered how Te'o could be so effective during the season, including seven interceptions - ``unheard of, like hitting .450 in baseball'' - and then so unproductive in the championship game.

``Between now and 97 days from now when the draft comes, there'll be a lot of people investigating just what took place,'' he said.

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Josh Dubow in Alameda, Calif., and Andrew Seligman in Lake Forest, Ill., contributed to this story.

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Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Three things to know about Ravens sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds

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Three things to know about Ravens sixth-round pick Keenan Reynolds

We are profiling the Ravens’ draft picks as they prepare to start minicamp Friday. Here are three things to know about sixth-round pick, WR Keenan Reynolds of Navy:

1. The biggest push to draft Reynolds came from assistant general manager Eric DeCosta.

DeCosta, general manager Ozzie Newsome, and coach John Harbaugh were visibly moved talking about making the phone call to Reynolds. All of them admire the way Reynolds has handled himself at Navy, both on and off the field.

When Newsome made the call, he put Reynolds on speaker phone so that everyone could hear his reaction. “Everyone in the room could be a part of telling him that we picked him,” Newsome said. “It was a special moment.”

2. Reynolds is much more than just a symbolic pick.

The Ravens believe Reynolds can stick as a punt returner, and that he has the athleticism and work ethic to become a polished slot receiver. Reynolds has many qualities inherent to top punt returners – good judgment, vision, elusiveness, sure hands, and speed. The Ravens also like that Reynolds has been working with CSN’s Brian Mitchell, a former Pro Bowl punt returner with the Redskins.

“Fortunately, we have a great relationship with Brian Mitchell,” DeCosta said. “We did our homework on him. He’s a guy that was a player of interest to us throughout the process. We kept it very quiet and, and it worked out the right way.”

 3. The Ravens are willing to wait if military obligations prevent Reynolds from playing right away.

Naval Academy graduates are obligated to a five-year military term, but Reynolds has hope of being able to play this fall. The Patriots drafted Navy graduate Joe Cardona last year as a long snapper, and he was granted permission to play. Cardona spent one day a week working at a Rhode Island naval facility. Reynolds hoped a similar arrangement could be worked out for him.

“I’m hoping and praying, and I’m confident that this potentially could be the same type of situation with myself,” Reynolds said. “It’s a blessing that the Ravens felt I was worthy to take a chance on with the military obligation and my service commitment.”

Will Matt Elam make Ravens in 2016 after fifth-year option declined?

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Will Matt Elam make Ravens in 2016 after fifth-year option declined?

It was no surprise the Ravens did not pick up the fifth-year option on safety Matt Elam by Monday’s deadline. The bigger question is whether Elam even makes the team next season.

The 32nd pick in the 2013 draft, Elam has been one of the biggest first-round busts in team history. Some of the standout players who went after Elam in that draft include Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short (44th), Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell (48th), and Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins (52nd).

Elam missed all of last season with a torn biceps, after underperforming in 2013 and 2014. Elam was a big hitter in college at Florida, but has struggled with missed tackles as a Raven, and has been even worse in pass coverage. With the Ravens acquiring safety Eric Weddle in free agency, and Lardarius Webb switching from cornerback to safety, Elam is expected to be a backup at best. He will compete with Terrence Brooks, Kendrick Lewis, and others for a backup role.

Elam is scheduled to make $1.327 million next season, before becoming a free agent in 2017.  However, Elam’s first priority is to secure his place with the Ravens in 2016.  

AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

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AFC North: Steelers LB James Harrison will return for 2016

The Ravens can expect to see Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison as an opponent again in 2016. Harrison confirmed on his Instagram account Monday that he would return for another season.

Harrison will turn 38 years old Wednesday (May 4), but he was still effective in 2015 with five sacks and 40 tackles playing in the Steelers’ linebacker rotation. With his announcement that he was returning, Harrison wrote “I’m feeling just like a fine wine. Getting better with age.”

Despite Harrison’s age, the Steelers believe they got younger and better on defense through the draft. Five of the Steelers’ seven picks were on defense – cornerback Artie Burns (first round), safety Sean Davis (second), defensive tackle Javon Hargrave (third round), outside linebacker Travis Feeney (sixth round), and inside linebacker Tyler Matakevich (seventh round).  

Clearly, there will be plenty of new names in the Ravens-Steelers rivalry, with both teams looking to get younger and faster. However, Harrison plans to be part of the mix for at least another season. The Ravens host the Steelers in Week 9, and visit the Steelers on Christmas afternoon.

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