The Dolphins are always thorough in their draft preparations, visiting with dozens of players, most of whom are long shots to be selected by Miami.
That diligence led them Wednesday to the draft’s most controversial and enigmatic prospect: Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, who flew into Hollywood-Fort Lauderdale International Airport. His visit began Wednesday evening and will last into Thursday, a source confirmed to the Post.
Te’o will count as one of the 30 visits the Dolphins are allowed before the start of the NFL draft, which begins April 25 in New York City. The prospects can meet members of the organization but cannot work out.
Te’o, listed at 6-foot-1 and 241 pounds, was projected as a top-15 pick before his stock plummeted because of his poor performance against Alabama in the BCS Championship Game, and the controversy surrounding his “girlfriend,” who turned out to be a hoax created by a prankster.
Teo still might be a first-round pick after finishing his senior season as a Heisman finalist with 111 tackles and seven interceptions, but he is trying to go through the draft process with as little fanfare as possible. When he left his flight Wednesday, he wore headphones and a hoodie sweatshirt that covered his head. He declined to comment about his visit with the Dolphins.
He was not on the list the NFL released Wednesday of the 23 players who are scheduled to attend the draft.
In addition to meeting with the Dolphins, his official visits are with San Diego, Chicago and Detroit, according to the source.
The Dolphins spent $27 million guaranteed on two linebackers this offseason, Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler, and certainly wouldn’t use the 12th overall pick on Te’o. But they could use a later pick on Te’o and have him compete with Koa Misi for the third linebacker spot.
Though the controversy over his “girlfriend” received the most attention — Teo talked publicly about her death even after learning she did not exist — he might slip into the second round more because of his performance in the BCS title game and his mediocre times in the 40-yard dash. He ran a 4.82 at the NFL scouting combine and a 4.71 at Notre Dame’s pro day.
Te’o told the Lions’ website that he hopes the bad game against Alabama won’t overshadow four years of solid play.
“(Alabama) is definitely a game I didn’t do as well as I could have, but it’s not something I felt could define my career at Notre Dame,” he said.