There’s no denying that defensive tackle is a position that the Carolina Panthers need to address in the upcoming NFL draft. Stopping the run was a major issue last season, and the addition of a big, run-stopping interior defensive lineman would be just what the doctor ordered.
Ever since the combine, the defensive lineman that has been shooting up mock draft boards is Dontari Poe. At 6’4″, 346 pounds, Poe certainly has the size of an NFL defensive tackle, but what stunned scouts at the combine was Poe’s rare combination of power and speed. His 44 reps on the 225-pound bench press were the most at the combine, but what was perhaps even more shocking was his 4.98 40 time (unofficial 4.87). It’s rare to come across an NFL prospect that big, that strong, and that fast.
Poe’s extraordinary combine performance has all but guaranteed him a first-round selection, and it is very possible that Carolina takes him as the number 9 overall pick. It’s a logical choice, with other DTs such as Michael Brockers and Jerel Worthy having their draft stock falling, but the Panthers need to make sure they do all of their homework before selecting Poe.
Many of these “workout warriors” who turn heads at the combine don’t pan out at the next level. Poe’s physical talent is unquestionable, but football is not played in t-shirts and gym shorts. Had any of us heard of Dontari Poe before the combine? Playing at Memphis is not going to get you a lot of publicity, but nevertheless most potential top-10 draft picks are names that football fans have heard before.
Dontari Poe has the potential to become a great NFL player. Ex-Memphis running back DeAngelo Williams swore by him before the NFL combine. He has all the tools to be the run-stopping defensive tackle that the Panthers need, but players drafted on pure potential always carry a certain risk, especially when drafted in the early first round.
Will the Panthers take that risk? We will find out on April 26th.