Dontari Poe has a lot of work in front of him in the transition from the college ranks at Memphis to the pro level. As an interior defender, technique is everything and Poe will have to work hard every day to slowly learn the playbook, the schemes, how to work best with teammates and his opponents’ tendencies, among other things. But the Chiefs knew they would have an uphill climb with Poe when they drafted him. The reward, they believed, was worth the risk.
Poe was the No. 11 choice in the 2012 NFL Draft and he is a potential steal on paper. He outweighed most of his competition at defensive tackle in the draft by nearly 50 pounds and flashed agility and athleticism that few of them had as well. With three-down lineman potential, Poe was simply too good to pass up.
The good news is that Poe is earning high marks from his defensive line coach for his work ethic and willingness to dig into his studies. Anthony Pleasant seems quite pleased with his prodigy so far.
"It’s good to have a guy of that magnitude and size, you just have to work hard—which he has been doing," said Pleasant. "Coming from college to the pros is a big transition for him, so he’s learning how to play the technique. He is a unique type of player he just has to continue to work hard and push himself. Personally, I just emphasize him watching film, saying this is how you need to play and this is your technique."
If Poe can get the mental side of the game to the point where it’s automatic, then the Chiefs could have a game-changing talent on their hands on the inside. Haloti Ngata and Casey Hampton are similar players who free up the linebackers and ends around them to make plays as the pocket collapses or runners bounce to the outside. Poe has the potential to do the same.
Poe definitely has a long way to go, but so far, so good. Year one might not be a banner year by any means but even a year in which Poe shows he belongs will point to long-term dividends for the Chiefs in years to come.