ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Bears taking Manti Te'o with the 20th overall pick in the draft.
But Kiper said Bears G.M. Phil Emery might have to be wary of the NFC North rival Vikings trying to jump ahead of him to steal the Notre Dame linebacker.
The Bears added former Bronco D.J. Williams in free agency, and he's penciled in as the successor to eight-time pro Bowler Brian Urlacher at middle linebacker. But Te'o still makes sense for the Bears, considering Williams will be 31 before training camp starts, and he comes with some off-the-field baggage that includes two suspensions last season.
The Vikings have an even greater need at middle linebacker after bidding farewell to last year's starter, Jasper Brinkley, who signed with the Arizona Cardinals.
“I did the projection late (Tuesday) night, and I just looked at all the angles, and I think Chicago is where (Te'o) is going to fall,” Kiper said Wednesday morning on a national conference call. “I tried to get him down to Minnesota because it makes so much sense. The Vikings at No. 23, and they pick again at 25. They definitely need a middle linebacker, they have a big hole at that position, and (Te'o) would be perfect for what they do there.”
He would also be a good fit for the Bears and the Giants, who have the pick just before the Bears. That could lead to some draft day dealing by the Vikings.
Emery is already on record saying he'd entertain offers to trade down in the first round and add later picks. The Bears would especially like to replace the third-round pick they swapped as part of the Brandon Marshall trade last year.
“It'll be interesting to see if a team like Minnesota — knowing that Chicago could have an interest (and) the Giants could have an interest at No. 19 — tries to move up a little bit to get Te'o,” Kiper said. “Especially (to move) ahead of a team in their own division with Chicago having the same need area. That could be an interesting dynamic, when you get two teams in the same division and you have the same player, Te'o, fitting both spots tremendously well.”
Kiper believes that Te'o's improved 40-time at Notre Dame's pro day solidifies his spot in the first round. After running a disappointing 4.82 in late February at the NFL Scouting Combine, Te'o clocked times in the low 4.7s at his pro day.
“He should have a very good career,” Kiper said. “Whether it's great or not, obviously is debatable, but he'll have a very good career. Great production; not a great 40.”
Kiper said Te'o compares favorably to former Lions and Bills middle linebacker Chris Spielman, whose 10-year career included four Pro Bowls.
“Chris Spielman had a heck of a career in the NFL,” Kiper said. “Te'o can have that type of career.”
Spielman's brother, Rick, is the Vikings' general manager.
Ÿ Follow Bob's NFL reports on Twitter @BobLeGere, and check out his Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com/sports.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.