Especially since the talent evaluators still don't have a real feel for what the heck happened with the Notre Dame linebacker.
"I've got a house on the Gulf about an hour and a half away, and sometimes we go out and put our lines in the water and we get a catfish," Philadelphia Eagles general manager Howie Roseman told reporters after the South team's practice at the Senior Bowl Tuesday afternoon. "That's the only time I've heard of it."
Catfishing is creating a fictional identity online and trying to get someone to believe it's a real person. In some instances, targets fall in love with the imaginary person.
Pleading ignorance has been the standard reply to deflect questions about the Te'o situation, an internet hoax involving Te'o's fictional girlfriend, Lennay Kekua. But it seems to be genuine confusion on the part of general managers and other talent evaluators who have read some of the reports about the "catfishing," but still haven't quite grasped the alleged scam.
In the coming weeks and months, that will change, and Te'o will have plenty of questions to answer at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February. In fact, some team officials who enjoy the investigative and interrogative part of the draft process are eager to learn more about the situation. They're sketching questions they'll ask Te'o.
"It's a little bit mind-boggling to think what did happen, what he did know," Broncos executive vice president John Elway said. "He's going to get asked about it probably 32 times at the Combine. Everyone is going to ask him about it. It's hard for us to understand -- why he wouldn't know?"
Until they can begin to find out, it's all guesswork as to how Te'o's draft stock will be affected.
"We call that situation in our room 'NMI.' You know what that stands for?" New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. "Need more information. We don't rush to judge anything. I don't know the details, but there's probably been worse things."
There absolutely have been worse things. Plenty of crimes have been committed. Academic issues are often red flags. Sometimes there are rumblings of gang affiliations with some players that must be explored.This one, though, is just kind of, well, odd.
"It's probably odd to old people like me who really don't know how to use that kind of stuff," Reese said, and he's not alone among GMs in that regard. "It wasn't odd to my kids. There are shows about it, I guess."
Reese laughed, and added, "It's a little odd to me, but again it's NMI. We think he's a good football player, so we'll see."
While the decision-makers pondering Te'o as a possible late first-round pick will work to understand how internet hoaxes work and how a seemingly intelligent, popular young man could be duped, the one early red flag is any potential dishonesty on Te'o's part. Notre Dame has said Te'o was notified Kekua wasn't dead and, in fact, never existed on Dec. 6, yet he spoke about her in interviews after that date.
Was Te'o still trying to keep up appearances while figuring out how he'd been fooled and whether the latest information was accurate? Or did he help perpetrate the fraud? These are the questions the general public has, and they're also on the minds of NFL types.
"All I know is, from afar, he looks very genuine," Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
So do plenty of red-flag prospects. It's what makes selecting young players a gamble.
"The hardest part of the whole draft process is you're talking about guys who did things between 18 and 22," Roseman said. "When you look around this field, even the people who are very successful, you go back and look at some of the things that everyone did between 18 and 22, you kind of shake your head. I look at my kids and go, 'Man.' You worry about everyone doing that because your brain functions differently when you're at that age.
"To tell you we have an accurate bead on that ever, that's not going to happen. That's why people hit 50, 55 percent in the first round. You wish you had a better feel for it and you've got to go with your gut a lot of times, but to sit here and tell you I've got all the answers, I wish I did."
Contributing: Lindsay H. Jones.
Copyright 2012 USA Today