Dontari Poe: Talent without Stats

Story posted March 9, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio, NFL Draft by Alex Gilliland


Before the 2012 NFL Combine, Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe was on plenty of draft boards, but was not a player many were talking about. But after the Combine, Poe's name was everywhere.

What changed? Poe ran a 4.98 second 40-yard dash. Combining that speed with a 6-foot-5, 350-pound frame, and you have a defensive tackle that gets people talking. His size also proved to be strength: Poe lifted 225 pounds 44 times.

Based on Poe's mediocre college career at Memphis, the performance seemed to come out of nowhere. In three years at Memphis, Poe had 101 tackles, 5 sacks and 4 forced fumbles. In 35 games, that production is not impressive.

With his size and athleticism, scouts would expect that he would dominate the competition on the interior. But in 2011, he only had 22 total tackles. In five games, he only recorded one tackle. It made sense, then, that his decision to declared for the NFL Draft after his junior year did not generate much buzz.

Those who did talk about Poe noted his apparent lack of effort on the field. Many noted that he frequently takes plays off and gives up once he is blocked at the line of scrimmage. Whether this issue is because of conditioning or attitude is tough to know, but time will tell with him.

Other issues with Poe involve his inconsistent play. He has issues at times getting around small linemen, despite often being able to blow by blockers of all sizes when his game is on. One analyst even said that Poe decides for himself before every play if he wants to give 100 percent effort or not.

But on the flip side, Poe's talents have scouts foaming at the mouth. His freakish athleticism has garnered a ton of praise. Despite his huge size, he handles it very well on the field. He has brute force strength that, with the right NFL coaches, could be transformed into phenomenal technique tacking aided by strong moves against linemen. If he can consistently perform at a high level, he will be a one-man wrecking crew at the next level.

Poe's athletic abilities include a rare explosiveness for a large defensive tackle. Speed is crucial for a defensive tackle at the pro level, and Poe should have no problem getting off the edge if his technique is sound.

He has also surprised a lot of NFL scouts with his footwork, which he displayed at the NFL Combine. He is nimble for such a large man, and is good at maneuvering around blockers on the field.

The problem still lies in trying to reconcile his great workout at the NFL Combine with his underwhelming production in three years at Memphis. Is he just a workout warrior? Or can his eye-opening Combine numbers translate into a productive NFL career?

It may be that Poe simply needs a fresh start with a new team and new coaches in order to be successful. He has the makings of an NFL superstar with his size, strength and speed. But he needs to be put into a system that plays to his strengths.

It is also important that Poe does not get caught up in the hype that has begun to surround him. He needs to remain humble, especially with the questions surrounding his dedication on the field, until has the opportunity to back up the hype on the gridiron.

While Poe has potential that is unrivaled at the defensive tackle position, his lack of effort may scare some general managers and coaches around the league away from him. He will be considered a boom-or-bust prospect, and that label will keep certain teams at bay.

But based on what we saw last week at the NFL Combine, it will be hard to pass up on Dontari Poe's talent. Teams in the middle of the first round will take a serious look at this beast out of Memphis, Tennessee.


Alex Gilliland is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email: