Go ahead and keep those mock drafts out. Speculate all you want about what the Vikings are going to do with the No. 25 overall pick, the second of their two first-round choices tonight. But take this to the bank: If Manti Te'o is available at No. 23, he is a stone-cold lock to be chosen by Minnesota. (Ooh, that's a big lock!)
Never before have we seen so many pieces of circumstantial evidence -- kind of like facts! -- point so unanimously to a single draft choice.
*Absolutely need a middle linebacker
*Have chosen FOUR OTHER Notre Dame players in the past five drafts, including two last year in Rick Spielman's first draft as GM, and have been successful at it (Smith, Harrison; Rudolph, Kyle; Sullivan, John).
*Have a history of inviting media circuses to town (see: Moss, Randy; Favre, Brett; Boat, Love).
*Have a long history of drafting successfully in the 20s in the first round, particularly with players who have some issues/concerns (see: Harvin, Percy; Moss, Randy; Smith, Harrison and Robert; Stringer, Korey). The beauty of drafting in the 20s is that a lot of teams have already reached to fill needs, others have taken stabs at Scouting Combine wonders and others have flat-out missed, leaving the playoff teams drafting that low to actually get value.
*Have players on the roster, including Harrison Smith, who will vouch for Te'o's character and ability in truthful ways considering they do not want a stiff as a pro teammate.
Unless some team like the Bears jumps in before the Vikings and takes Te'o, we would be absolutely stunned if they don't take him. This is based on no inside information whatsoever -- just the preponderance of relevant evidence.
Also: If you are out at the draft party at Mall of America Field tonight, say hi. We'll be there writing about new uniforms and chatting it up with the faithful.