The 2012 NFL Scouting Combine will obviously be utilized by the Dallas Cowboys Scouting Department, GM and Owner Jerry Jones, and Head Coach Jason Garrett prepare for the 2012 NFL Draft. Speculation about who the Cowboys must draft and which position they must fill is rampant. I have argued in the past that there is not enough value in a Guard, even a likely Pro Bowler, to take David DeCastro at 14th overall, especially when you have as many holes to fill on the defense as the Cowboys do. I have also adopted Greyson’s argument that drafting a CB in the first round is a very risky endeavor. Given that the Cowboys can not afford to ‘miss’ with the 14th pick, I agree with his point that it is wiser to draft CB’s in bulk in the later rounds.
If Jerry plans to pass on DeCastro and he is not excited about taking a CB in the first round, that pretty much leaves NT and pass-rusher. The article about DeCastro argued that the Cowboys should take a prototypical 3-4 NT with the 14th pick if there was one available that had sufficient value to justify taking at 14. There is more value in a true 3-4 NT because they are more rare than great pass rushers or elite corners.
Before the Combine, Mike Mayock had Dontari Poe of the Memphis Tigers as the 3rd best DT in the Draft. Walterfootball has him as just the 5th rated DT.
After the Combine, the consensus is forming that Poe is the best 3-4 NT in this year’s Draft class. He certainly has the body and build; he 6-foot-3 1/2, 346-pound. He is solid and toned. Sam Wyche of NFL.com described him as a “block of granite”. Poe doesn’t turn 22 years old until August; he is foregoing his senior year of college play to enter the NFL.
Dontari Poe ran a very impressive 4.98 in the 40-yard dash. He also bench pressed 225 pounds 44 times, which was the best at this year’s Combine.
One player can not immediately fix all the problems the Cowboys had on defense last year, but a NT has the potential to help in more ways than a CB or even a pass-rusher. A gargantuan NT like Poe would improve the Dallas defense in the following ways:
- The Cowboys have struggled in short yardage situations for years. A mammoth NT like Poe, who is capable of either getting penetration or at least maintain the line of scrimmage and not get pushed back, would help immensely in stopping short-yardage plays on 3rd down or near the goal-line.
- Having Dontari Poe would allow Jay Ratliff to move to DE. Having Ratliff at end where he would face fewer double-teams would be a significant upgrade to the pass-rush over the three DE’s they played last year (Kenyon Coleman, Marcus Spears, and Jason Hatcher.) An improved pass-rush is one of this team’s greatest biggest needs.
- An improved pass-rush would make the secondary’s job much easier. The secondary played poorly at times last season, and it certainly needs to be improved, but in some of the games, the secondary was being asked to cover receivers for far too long because the front 7 were not getting any pressure on the opposing QB.
- A behemoth NT like Poe would face double-teams on almost every play; he is big enough, strong enough, and low enough to the ground that he should still be able to get a push in the middle. There were long stretches last season when the Cowboys defense was unable to get any sort of push in the middle.
- Even if Poe couldn’t get a push in the middle, if he can maintain his position at the line of scrimmage and take on multiple blockers, it should make it easier for the ILB’s (Sean Lee and presumable Bruce Carter) to shoot the gaps against running plays. On passing downs, it should be easier for them to blitz in the middle.
Men who are big enough and strong enough to play the NT position are rare. Finding one that has the speed and agility (1.68 seconds in the 10 Yard Split) of Dontari Poe is something that happens only once every few years. Many commentators are starting to use the word “freakish” when they describe Poe’s raw talent and measureables.
If Dontari Poe is still on the board when the Cowboys take the clock to make the 14th selection in the 2012 Draft, it is difficult to imagine that either a pass-rusher or CB would be able to make a contribution in as many ways as Poe would.