The 14 Spot:
There is a possibility both Dontari Poe and Mark Barron will be on the board at #14. Barron is the player more likely to go off the board at this point due to a team trading up but we will see. So start the clock... Majority of mocks and cowboys nation conclude that Barron is a no brainer in that position.The support for the hard-hitting Alabama product is overwhelming but I’m not sold if Dontari Poe is on the board there too.
Don’t dismiss Poe because of Barron infatuation:
Barron is decent in coverage and displays most of the skills you want in a premium safety. Let’s be straight though. My infatuation is rooted from the same thing that appeals him to scouts and fans...Mark Barron can hit. The N.F.C. east division fields the most talented wide receivers in the league. You want Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, Desean Jackson and Pierre Garcon to be aware that there is a presence at safety. For that matter, it’s beneficial for Vick and RG3 to know that a Barron will be gunning you down if they reach the edge or second level. With all that said, I still believe that Dontari Poe will have far greater impact improving our defense than that of Barron.
I miss Darren Woodson and Roy Williams (in his prime) along with most Cowboy fans but dismissing Poe from the conversation is an error.
Before I dive into that, I think it is extremely relevant to talk about Barron’s double sports hernia surgery and the details of the injury.
Barron’s Double Hernia is more serious than an ACL tear:
I am surprised that this injury has rarely been talked about or weighed in on. It’s as if his draft stock has not even taken a hit. That is lucky for Barron but not good for a team investing a first round pick. Could it be that it is not the most common injury for football athletes? This is not like Julio Jone's broken foot during the draft process last year. A double hernia is a severe injury to any athlete. A hernia occurs when the abdominal wall weakens allowing part of the intestine to slip in the weakened area. A double hernia occurs generally on the right and left side. Obviously, NFL team doctors and medical staffs know much more details than me. However, I do consider this a significant injury and its affect on a player equivalent to an ACL/MCL tear if not worse. The recovery time may be faster but don’t dismiss the prolonged effects it could have on a player.
Barron's Alabama pro-day performance claims to be the answer to any questions about his recovery and physical condition. However, his performance is not an indicator of his ability to play given the nature of the injury. Barron participated in the 40, Vertical Jump, and Broad jump. Everything was straight line. A double hernia affects an athlete to twist, move laterally and switch directions. No shuttle or cone drills were performed to verify that.
Barron admitted to be 80% and don’t blame him for not participating in those drills but it is a red flag. If you have ever heard a coach assess a good safety, a general statement is that he has "good hips". Generally meaning he can fluidly move and react quickly to where the ball is. Tight hips have already been noted as one of Barron’s weaknesses and his recent injury only makes it worse. My largest concern with a double hernia injury is that it tends to be it’s chronic and leads to other problems. That is not surprising to me given that it is a severe injury to the core of the human structure. Barron also suffered a torn pectoral muscle in 2010. Durability is a major concern for me with Barron and analysts are grading him out without this aspect entirely. Its not fair that its a risk to take Poe because there isn't much tape but theres no risk for Barron who has not even made a hit after suffering a major injury. The Cowboys have had success on recent draft picks with players that had sustained recent injuries prior to draft. Sean Lee (ACL) has already proved to be extremely productive. Bruce Carter (ACL) is now a 100% and I feel that he is going to live up to the billing. It’s a guess or maybe an intuition but if we select Mark Barron are luck runs out and we see a player that cant stay on the field.
"Poe sucks on tape" lacking argument:
Dontari Poe’s stock soared after his freakish combine workout that drew comparisons to Haloti Ngata. This is obviously not enough for Dallas fans or prospective teams understandingly. The common thread of arguments against Poe is that his tape and numbers at Memphis is not impressive. I will agree that the tape is less than spectacular but I do see potential. It is important to note that Memphis went 2-10, 1-11, and 2-10 in Poe's career from his freshman to junior year. The majority of the losses were complete blowouts and Memphis ranked as one of the worst defenses in the NCAA.
I don’t care how talented a football player may be. When you play for a team that went 5-31 during your college career and got blown out nearly every game, an athlete is not going to perform close to their full potential, especially at the defensive tackle position.
When I view Poe’s tape I don’t see a talented ball player underperforming. I see a player that is confused with a scheme that did not play too his advantage. I don’t want to question the Memphis coaching staff but lets just say a NFL caliber coaching will make all the difference. I have another problem with the "Poe couldn’t even dominate in a weak conference" argument. If you put Dontari Poe on Saban's Alabama squad in the SEC, do you think his numbers would have been significantly better? No doubt in my mind that this would be true and I would not be writing this blog. Another interesting note is that Dontari was playing the bass drum in the high school band and only started playing football his junior year. Most importantly, it’s extremely hard to evaluate the defensive tackle position. Dontari Poe dissuaders are usually Fletcher Cox advocates. It doesn’t make sense to me because I see Cox’s high motor in his tape but he had only 5 sacks his senior year. I don’t see the explosiveness in his tape either. He is completely ineffective when double teamed and not that dynamic.
Cox has a comparable motor to JJ Watt but without his explosiveness. Fletcher Cox’s lack of explosiveness is evident in his vertical combine numbers. Fletcher Cox’s vertical jump was 26" at 298 lbs and Dontari Poe’s was 29.5 "at 346 lbs. landing like a ballerina.
Michael Brockers has more tape than Poe but it doesn’t impress me either. Brockers had a horrendous combine ranking at the bottom in many areas. I didn’t see any thing that leads me to believe that Brockers ends the streak of LSU defensive lineman (Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Marcus Spears) that went high and aren’t producing in the NFL.
Dontari Poe tape
Drafting Poe is 2 huge moves in 1:
Drafting Dontari Poe is essentially making 2 impactful roster moves. The switch of Jay Ratliff to the defensive end position is an absolute necessity to the success of the Cowboys defense. He is naturally a d-end in the N.F.L. and the position move will pay huge dividends. Until the Cowboys bring in a pure nose tackle Rob Ryan can’t make this move. Good nose tackles occupy blockers and open up opportunities for others. It's actually a unselfish position but pivotal. Dontari Poe is raw but with quality coaching he will be disruptive at that position immediately. There is no doubt Ratliff could register double digit sack numbers playing at end with Poe at nose. Ratliff on the edge with Ware on his outside hip …I’m getting excited already. Despite Ware being our best defensive player, everyone knows Ratliff is the Cowboys defensive leader. Analyst and fans have questioned leadership more than ever this offseason. Nothing helps a leader lead more than putting up solid numbers. Dontari Poe fits the nose tackle position in a 3-4 scheme like a glove. Eventually, I am confident that his proven physical skills will translate into an interior pass rush that will collapse any opponents passing pocket. I also believe that he will be a great asset on the goal line and in 3rd and 1 situations.
At the very least, Dontari Poe will be disruptive on the front line in his rookie year providing opportunities for teammates. Cowboys new assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett could at least teach him that concept. This is not a Tannenhill project scenario that will take years. This is developing a nose tackle with all the physical attributes that will have an impact from game one.
Yes, Poe may be inconsistent at times during his rookie year but I believe he will will embrace participating in big games including divisional match ups. Drafting Barron will improve the secondary but the addition of Poe will allow more defensive players to excel, specifically, Jay Ratliff. Dontari Poe will also be a perfect compliment to Cowboy’s talented inside linebacker Bruce Carter.
One Player Away?
Besides the question of Barron’s durability, Poe provides us with a player that has greater all around impact on our defense. Jay Ratliff’s move to D-end is a necessity and the Cowboys will get the maximum potential out of him. Dontari Poe will continue to improve and develop into one of the best defensive tackles in the game. Solidifying the d-line with Poe will automatically make everyone better in the secondary due to the increased pressure on opposing quarterbacks. If the Cowboys are one player away from a run to the Super Bowl, Dontari Poe could be the guy.