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A position-by-position look at prospects in this year’s NFL Draft. This entry: Defensive Tackles.


INDIANAPOLIS –The college decision for Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe was not as hard as many would think.

In turning down the opportunity to play for some BCS schools, Poe was perfectly content with staying in his hometown.

"I'm from Memphis, born and raised in Memphis," Poe said.  "I kind of felt like it would be the best decision for me at that time to stay at home and go to that school.  For my family to be able to see me play each and every Saturday, I thought it was a blessing and it turned out to be a blessing in disguise."

After three years at Memphis where Poe started 30 of 35 games, he felt like the time was now to pursue the NFL.  His decision came after producing 101 career tackles, 57 solo, 21.5 tackles for losses, five sacks and four fumbles forced.

This past season, Poe had 33 tackles, eight for losses and one sack.  He was an honorable mention All-America choice who had tackles in every outing.  He started 12 games for the second consecutive season.  In 2010, he had 41 tackles and two sacks.

At 346 pounds, Poe naturally would seem like an ideal fit in the middle of the defensive line, but he feels as though he can fit in at a number of different places along the line.

"I see myself as someone who can rush the passer a lot more than people think," Poe said.  "I am used to playing nose tackle and the three-technique, and I've played some five-technique. I'm pretty comfortable anywhere on the defensive line."

During the NFL Combine, Poe showed observers, in-stadium and beyond, what type of prospect he is with running a sub five-second 40-yard dash.

"I think I'm explosive, very explosive," Poe said.  "That's probably my biggest strength.  Most people think just because I'm big I do nothing but (overpower) you.  I try to use my quickness to my advantage."

Poe's balance of speed and strength is one of his many assets that he carries with him into the NFL Draft.  He put up 44 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press during the Combine, which was more than any other defensive lineman.

"I love the weight room," Poe said.  "It's something I got into in high school because people always used to say college players are way bigger, faster, stronger.  When you get to college, they say the NFL is way bigger, faster, stronger.  I never let up on it.  I'm self, intrinsically motivated to do it.  Football is the most fun part about it."

A successful showing at the Combine set up Poe to potentially be a high draft pick in the April selection process.

Electing to stay close to home in college was Poe's choice and the decision has paid off as one NFL team will choose the big man to join the middle of its defense.

"It's always been a dream.  Back in high school we used to look at it and think it was so far away," Poe said.  "But now at the end of my college career and getting this opportunity, it's a blessing and it's a dream come true.  But it's also a job and a business.  It has become a reality. I'm getting used to it as I go."

Players usually get asked if their style of play resembles anyone else.  Some people have projected Poe to be cut from the same style as Casey Hampton.  It is a comparison Poe likes because he has studied those who preceded him into the NFL.

"It's a great feeling because everyone knows he's a great player, a Pro Bowl-caliber player," said Poe.  "He has been for a long time in the NFL.  To be compared to him is a positive.  I've always followed him. … He's aggressive.  He's one of the more aggressive defensive tackles this league has seen.  His hand strength (is solid).  Once he gets his hands on you, he kind of controls you. That's probably what I admire most about him.

"I'm pretty into football a lot.  (Defensive) tackles, I look at them a lot.  Being one of the best as he has been for a long time, I followed him for a long time.  I like Ndamukong Suh.  I think he's very aggressive.  Haloti Ngata.  A lot of defensive tackles in this day and age are very good, which forces us to kind of step our game up."



The last five defensive tackles drafted by the Colts:

2011:  Drake Nevis, third round, LSU

2010:  Ricardo Mathews, seventh round, Cincinnati

2009:  Fili Moala, second round, Southern Cal

2009:  Terrance Taylor, fourth round, Michigan

2007:  Quinn Pitcock, third round, Ohio State


An alphabetical list of defensive tackles expected to be selected in the 2012 NFL Draft (*-denotes underclassman):

Fletcher Cox, Mississippi State*

Jared Crick, Nebraska

Dontari Poe, Memphis*

Kendall Reyes, Connecticut

Devon Still, Penn State

Alameda Ta'Amu, Washington

Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Billy Winn, Boise State

Jerel Worthy, Michigan State*

Note:  The content in this story and in the series of draft-eligible players that appears on in no way reflects the position of the Indianapolis Colts.

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