The Miami Dolphins just spent big bucks on free agent linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, but that will not stop them from taking a close look at former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o before the NFL Draft later this month.
The Palm Beach Post reported Wednesday that Te'o will be one of 30 prospects making official visits to Dolphins headquarters, coming to South Florida on Wednesday evening.
However, it seems unlikely that the Dolphins would select Te'o with the 12th pick in the upcoming draft. Most experts expect Te'o to be taken later in the first round, and Miami has bigger needs elsewhere (notably cornerback, defensive line, and offensive line).
Still, he could become a more realistic draft target if Miami decides to trade its first-round pick for more picks (including, presumably, a pick later in the first round).
Te'o led the Fighting Irish with 113 tackles in his senior season, when he led Notre Dame to a berth in the BCS National Championship Game and was a Heisman Trophy finalist. He also made seven interceptions and one fumble recovery.
He became infamous when the sports blog Deadspin revealed that Te'o's supposed girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was a hoax perpetrated by Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, an acquaintance of Te'o. Te'o had told the media earlier last season that Kekua had died in a car accident in September, on the same day his grandmother died.
The hoax story, along with Te'o's subpar performance against Alabama in the national championship game, caused his draft stock to fall considerably. Considered a potential top 10 pick before last season, NFL observers speculated Te'o could fall down to the second round.
However, a strong performance at Notre Dame's Pro Day in late March improved his stock considerably, and Te'o is now expected to be drafted in the last half of the first round.
Calling in Te'o for a visit does not guarantee that the Dolphins will even consider picking him in the draft, but the team clearly wants to kick his tires and determine if he is worth the hype.