Why Drafting Dontari Poe Is A Mistake

Recently, Son of a Newton wrote an article about why drafting Luke Kuechly, linebacker out of Boston College would be a mistake for the Panthers' front office. It’s an interesting way to encourage debate over someone the Panthers do seem to be looking at as a target for the #9 pick. With that in mind, I figured I would try and help encourage some more debate over another prospect that has been slated for us by many of the major draftniks and talking heads recently, if not potentially slated higher in the most recent mock drafts.

That prospect is, of course, Dontari Poe, defensive tackle out of Memphis.

Why should we stay away from Poe as a prospect and not consider him with the #9 pick, despite the attempts of the media to try and force him on the NFL as the best DT in the draft? We’ll get into that, after the jump...

Ever since the NFL Combine, Dontari Poe has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. Before the Combine, he was mid- to late second round draft material. Suddenly, he’s marked by many as the best defensive tackle in the draft. All because of the Combine? Which begs the question: has Al Davis well and truly managed to spread his love affair with Combine measurables to every sports commentator and major draftnik in America from beyond the grave?

While that may sound like an insult to Al Davis and his memory (and there really is no offense intended), the fact is, that seems to be precisely the case. Think about this for a moment: mid- to late second round to top ten in one weekend. Does this not strike people as odd? What’s suddenly making Dontari Poe this nigh-mythical DT capable of drawing comparisons to the likes of Ndamukong Suh or Haloti Ngata? Is it solely his performance in the Combine?

The sad fact is, it is solely his Combine performance driving his stock up. Watching actual game footage of Poe, I see a defensive tackle who’s routinely double-teamed, certainly; it can’t be said that Memphis’s opponents in C-USA aren’t taking him into account in their offensive blocking schemes. But where’s the vaunted speed he showed at the Combine? Where’s all that vaunted upper body strength? I see none of that. In fact, what I do see concerns me greatly.

I see a defensive tackle who’s double-teamed and on rare occasions triple-teamed by opponents, solely because of his size. There is no explosion, no penetration at all into the backfield. There is no situational awareness of the play at all that I can see -- just single-minded focus on pushing the offensive line, and not seeming to give much effort at all when he does. I see a lack of technique, lack of speed, lack of upper body strength: you can’t tell me that a 6’5", 346 lb. defensive tackle has any excuse for, on several occasions, being single-blocked by a center and unable to escape the block -- indeed, it’s as if he can barely hold the line of attack. And worse, there are several occasions where Poe’s absolutely manhandled -- by running backs who are at best three-quarters his size and weight.

From there, you can move to Youtube. Yes, there are a couple of game films that I’ve found: Memphis vs. Arkansas State and Memphis vs. Tulane. But when it comes to highlight reels, I can only find one Dontari Poe highlight reel, and it’s this. This boggles me: the vast majority of a highlight reel for someone who’s a top-ten pick is his Combine performance? Virtually nothing on the field, and what little is shown looks like nothing special.

I just don’t see it -- all of this screams red flags for me. When all’s said and done, I do not see how Dontari Poe was graded at mid- to late second round in the first place -- I couldn’t advocate picking him before the third round at best. Maybe down the road with several years experience, he’ll be pretty good, but Suh and Ngata he will never be. I see a lot of hype and smoke being blown in our faces when it comes to Poe, but nothing in the way of substance. Hopefully Rivera and Hurney won’t fall for the trap of being enamored with workout warrior-level Combine measurables that have no substance of game film to back them up.

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