NFL draft: Manti Te’o, Geno Smith, Tyrann Mathieu find homes

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NEW YORK — Manti Te’o is headed to San Diego.

Geno Smith is a Jet.

Radio City Music Hall was relatively silent for five second-round picks Thursday night. Then the theater shook with two selections within minutes of each other.

The Notre Dame All-America linebacker was chosen sixth in the second round by the Chargers, drawing a loud roar from the fans at Radio City Music Hall. One spot later, the Jets took the West Virginia quarterback, drawing a raucous reaction of cheers and boos.

Early in Friday’s proceedings, the big names had taken over from the bulk and beef of opening night, when 18 linemen went in the first round.

Te’o, who led the Fighting Irish to the national championship game, was projected as a first-rounder last year. But his poor performance in a rout at the hands of Alabama, some slow workouts, and a tabloid-ready hoax involving a fake girlfriend that became a national soap opera dropped his stock.

“I did expect to go in the first round,” Te’o said. “But things happened and all it did was give me more motivation.”

When former Chargers defensive back Jim Hill was handed the card to make the announcement by Commissioner Roger Goodell, he was told, “You’re going to get a big cheer when you announce this pick.”

It was more a mix of surprise and recognition of the most talked-about player in the draft finally finding a landing spot at No. 38 overall.

The Chargers traded up with Arizona to grab Te’o, the Heisman Trophy runner-up. Te’o ran a 4.82-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine, slow for a linebacker. He did better at Notre Dame’s pro day, but NFL teams already had plenty of football reasons to doubt his worthiness as a first-round pick.

He was the third linebacker chosen in this draft.

“It’s a perfect scenario. My parents can come and watch, I can go home, it’s San Diego,” said Te’o, a native of Hawaii. “We’re all excited. I can’t be any happier.”

With the very next pick, the Jets sent their QB situation spiraling into further chaos. They already have Mark Sanchez, who struggled last season but was brought back in great part because of a prohibitive contract. They still have Tim Tebow, who almost certainly soon will be cut. They signed David Garrard, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010.

And now there is Smith, who waited futilely throughout the first round, returned to the theater Friday and was rewarded.

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