INDIANAPOLIS -- We saw again at the NFL Scouting Combine on Monday why offensive linemen have to be more athletic: Because the defensive linemen are freaks.
Twenty-seven of the 59 defensive linemen (nearly half) who took part in drills ran sub-5.0 40-yard dashes. Other drills -- jumps, field drills, bench press -- became a playground for some players, most notably Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
The 6-foot-3 1/2, 346-pound block of granite ran an official time of 4.98 in the 40-yard dash, bench pressed 225 pounds 44 times (tops in this year's combine) and pretty much made himself the most attractive 3-4 nose tackle in the 2012 NFL Draft -- if not the top overall inside tackle, regardless of the front. That alone could make Poe a desired (and inherently wealthy) man come April.
We've seen the premium on interior defensive tackles, with four being taken in the first round of last year's draft, including Marcell Dareus going third overall to the Buffalo Bills. With so few natural 3-4 nose tackles coming through the collegiate pipeline each year, Poe could be even more marketable, although there are some concerns about his consistent effort.
There are a variety of opinions on Poe, none being overly critical. One personnel evaluator said Poe's lack of dominance stems from so many opposing teams playing a more horizontal style offense, which required scraping and chasing more than penetrating. However, he really showed well in short-yardage situations; he either couldn't be pushed back and/or re-set the line of scrimmage.
Teams like the Jets, Chargers, Steelers, Panthers, Broncos, Patriots, Colts and Vikings, among others, could use a player like Poe. And odds are one of them will call his name, probably in the first round.
Additional prospect notes
» USC defensive end Nick Perry really showed well, running the third-fastest 40 among defensive linemen at 4.64 and pretty much owning every drill he participated in -- except some of the pass-coverage drills that required him to move in space. Perry told me that he envisions himself as a 4-3 end, where he clearly seems best suited.
A scout who dealt a lot with Perry during the combine said the USC product was the one player in his group that was all business at all times and considered him a throwback, at least in terms of his affinity for the sport and his single-minded approach.
» An off-the-grid player who will have coaches and scouts re-reviewing his film is Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin. At 6-3, 260-pounds, the defensive end/outside linebacker ran the second-fastest 40 (4.63) among defensive linemen. McClellin told me that he showed everyone watching that he is a legit athlete and not just one of those high-motor players.
McClellin is technically sound in coverage and especially as a pass rusher. With his size and skill set, he could end up being an every down 4-3 end. McClellin said he will continue to work on outside linebacker drills so he can feel more comfortable with some of the demands of that front. Regardless, he's viewed as a pass rusher -- a pass rusher who significantly helped himself by showcasing his athleticism.
» Devon Still, a 6-5, 303-pound defensive tackle from Penn State, is regarded as one of the top interior players in the draft. His tape is going to have to do most of the talking for him. Though he didn't struggle at the combine, he also didn't dazzle. He ran a 5.08 40-yard dash and did 26 reps on the bench press. He wasn't overly fluid in some of the field drills either, but again, he wasn't a mess.
We often give players the benefit of the doubt, as slower times don't always line up with game speed. For players who compete on the inside, disruption, technique and desire are some of the most important components. What could somewhat hurt Still is that so many other players performed so well that they could get harder looks on the film re-evaluation, prompting some teams to project the position a little differently.
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