Size, speed, and strength don’t usually go together. The bigger a football player is, the slower and stronger he is. The smaller a football player is, the faster and weaker he is. But Dontari Poe, a defensive tackle that played three seasons for the University of Memphis, has an exciting combination of all three as shown by his impressive NFL Combine performance last month.
Poe was a workout warrior in college, being called one of the top 10 strongest players in the nation, but never fully living up to his potential on the field. His numbers were good enough to earn him Conference USA All-Freshman honors in his first year, an honorable mention in his second, and a second-team nod in his junior season. While that doesn’t sound like the resumé of a probable first round (and most likely top 20) draft selection, it’s Poe’s body, not his body of work, that has put him on the map.
Dontari Poe weighs in at 346 pounds and stands tall at 6-4. But he’s agile for his size, clocking in at 4.98 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which is extremely fast for a defensive tackle as big as he is. His 44 reps lifting at the Combine were the most of any prospect in attendance, but came as no surprise as he showed similar weight room success during his time at Memphis.
He worked out late last week at the Memphis Pro Day, even though his stock was flying high at the combine, because, as he said, he wanted to “show more of what I have; you can never work out too much.”
Poe was a top three defensive tackle prospect before his Combine performance, but those numbers pushed him over the edge. He went from a fringe first round/second round prospect to being ranked as the best player at his position and being linked as a possible candidate for the Carolina Panthers’ ninth overall selection.
As was mentioned earlier though, Poe’s lack of production in college will be worrisome for any team that’s looking to draft him. He’s a high-risk player that could come with an higher reward. If Poe pans out, he could be the next Haloti Ngata. He’s very explosive for his size and can burst off the line. But his pass-rushing ability is questionable and his technique saw little improvement over three seasons at Memphis.
There’s no doubt that Dontari Poe would be a “project” for whatever team selects him come draft day next month. It’s going to take a lot of work and the right coach to maximize his potential, but that potential is well worth the first round draft selection that will be used on him.
He’s turning heads, and not just in the world of football. In a recent interview with Bill Simmons on the B.S. Report, United States president Barack Obama commented, “They just had the Combine and they’re talking about some guy who is like 340, who runs [an unofficial] 4.8, and has a three-foot vertical. And I don’t know what you do if a guy like that hits you.” Me either, Mr. President. Me either.