Dontari Poe has a great combination of size, strength and burst off the snap. However, he is a very raw prospect from a technique standpoint.

Size: Poe has elite size for a defensive tackle. He is listed at 6’5”, 350 pounds, but doesn’t look obese. I don’t think he has a great build as he is probably pretty flabby, but he carries the weight fairly well because of his height. He could probably stand to slim down to about 335 pounds, but that is just my opinion.

Strength: Poe has plenty of strength and is said to be a very impressive weight room lifter. Combining that with his natural size and strength and you’d assume he would be pretty tough to move around. But from a strength and size perspective Poe is a very intriguing prospect.

Get-off: Poe’s get off is incredibly impressive for his size and it is pretty consistent. The only time it drops off is when his concentration might be lacking (such as getting ready for the snap late) or when he wears down on long drives or later in games. However, he has impressive burst off of the line of scrimmage which helps him beat offensive linemen with his get-off and one move to blow by them.

Pass Rush: Poe’s pass rush ability is lacking as a prospect even in spite of his impressive get off. Once engaged he is essentially out of the play and won’t have an impact, even when he is only one on one with a guard. He struggles to disengage once blocked, and that limits his potential as a pass rusher. If he doesn’t beat the blocker initially his only hope is to eventually get off the block either because the offensive linemen struggles to sustain or because he fights through it when he’s fresh and his motor is still running strong. He flashes a rip move to beat blockers, but beyond that a less than impressive bull rush is all he has from a pass rushing standpoint. However, he does a pretty good job of getting his hands up into passing lanes when he can’t get to the passer which is good to see.

Run Defense: Poe is a pretty strong run defender, but he doesn’t project to the nose tackle position as well as I expected him to. As I mentioned earlier, he has an impressive get-off for his size which allows him to penetrate into the backfield and disrupt running plays on occasion. However, he gets pushed around much easier than you would expect him to given his great combination of size and weight room strength. Theoretically he should be incredibly difficult to move off of the line of scrimmage, even in the face of double teams, but too many times I saw him get pushed off of the line of scrimmage by just one offensive lineman. That surprised and disappointed me, and made me doubt his potential to be a 3-4 NT at all in the NFL. He struggles with leverage on a pretty regular basis because of his height and that contributes to him getting pushed off the line of scrimmage.

Tackling: Poe is a reliable tackler and when he can wrap his arms around a defender he goes down. He’s so big that he just has to get his hands on the ballcarrier and he can bring him down.

Intangibles: I’m not sure how hard of a worker Poe is or what his football IQ is, but he flashed the ability to sniff out screens in the games that I watched of him. However, there seemed to be a number of times that he did not maintain his gap responsibility when he tried to beat the offensive guard off of their outside shoulder. He’s oftentimes lined up at nose tackle, which often resulted in him leaving the A gap and making it easy for blockers to seal him out of the play. This is something that will take a while to evaluate, but right now I’m not that impressed with his intangibles especially because he seems to have some issues regarding conditioning.

Overall: Poe is a very intriguing prospect because of his rare combination of size, strength and an impressive burst off of the line of scrimmage. However, his technique is not well developed at all and struggles to disengage from most blocks. He only flashes a rip move as a pass rusher, and struggles to impact the game versus the pass. In 33 games as a college player (with two still remaining in his junior season) he has only totaled 5 sacks. There is no reason to expect that his sack total will increase drastically once he gets to the NFL, and that limits his potential especially as a potential 4-3 defensive tackle. He doesn’t stand up well at the point of attack either and struggles to shed blocks. He gets washed out against double teams and even sometimes by one offensive lineman because of his struggles with leverage and pad level. That makes me very worried because it limits his upside as a 3-4 NT and as a 4-3 NT, and if he struggles to rush the passer then it makes you wonder why he is projected by a 1st round pick by so many people. I think he has 1st round potential, but he is nowhere near his potential right now. He needs significant development and coaching before he will be ready to be a part of a rotation because his pad level and hand usage are serious issues for him as a prospect right now.

Projection: Right now I have a 3rd round grade on Poe. I thought about grading him as a round four guy, but his size, strength and burst off of the line of scrimmage is just too rare that I don’t think he would slide that far. Too many people are projecting him as a 3-4 NT right now in my opinion because his game is predicated on penetration and disruption in the backfield, not on standing up to double teams and allowing linebackers to fill and make plays. He has a long way to go as a prospect, but his upside is undeniable.