Dontari Poe, the defensive tackle from Memphis was tapped as the first-round choice of the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2012 NFL draft. “This could be a home run or it could be a big whiff,” ESPN’s Chris Berman told the national television audience last night as Poe strode to the podium. Berman is completely correct, and Poe’s success or failure will be a referendum not just on him, but on entire questions of the draft process.
I’ve made no secret of my disdain for the “rising stock” and “falling star” phenomena of the NFL draft, where players’ status changes without actually being on the field (the one exception would be if character background checks turned up something alarming or beneficial, but that’s not the case with Poe). Poe was not considered a high first-round draft choice when his college career ended. He became one at the combine in Indianapolis this past February.
Before one thinks I’m criticizing the Kansas City selection, let me step back and say that I am not. Maybe Poe really is that good. After all, it’s not his fault if the scouting establishment overlooked him in his playing days. But that begs the question of what exactly scouts are doing during the college season. Memphis may not be an elite program (or even a good one), but Conference USA is not off the beaten path. How did Poe get overlooked?
If Poe comes through, then it’s time to ask how NFL scouts are spending their time when these players are in the midst of their college careers. If he flames out, it’s a lesson not to put workouts at the combine ahead of on-field results. It’s up to the man who will occupy the nose in the Chiefs’ 3-4 defensive scheme to tell us which it is.
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