Breakthrough Prospects at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine: Defensive Tackle Dontari Poe

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During the month of February, STACK traveled to four of the nation's elite combine training facilities, visiting with more than 30 top NFL prospects—and observing countless others—to experience what premier players are doing to elevate their game to the next level.

We watched as they ran the 40-Yard Dash, Three-Cone and 5-10-5 Shuttle Drills; observed one-on-one positional skill workouts under the direction of former NFL players and coaches; and sat poolside during Hydro Training sessions (you get the picture).

Dontari Poe NFL Scouting Combine training.

A monster of a man, Dontari Poe is capable of a monster performance at the NFL Combine.

Thanks to our exclusive access, we are in a position to identify breakout prospects who seem destined for Combine—and later, NFL—greatness. Sometimes what stands out most is raw speed and power (Adrian Peterson, 2007); sometimes it's tremendous explosiveness (Von Miller, 2011); other times it's the sheer immensity of a player's talent (Ndamukong Suh, 2010).

So, who will blow up at the 2012 NFL Combine? We're highlighting three prospects we believe will improve their already-soaring draft stock with monster performances at the Combine.

In our first installment, we feature former Memphis Tigers defensive tackle Dontari Poe, who prepared for the Combine at Athletes' Performance in Phoenix.

Pound for pound, Poe could well be the most athletically gifted prospect we visited during our four-facility tour. That's high praise for a defensive lineman who stands nearly 6'4", weighs 330 pounds, and prepped alongside the likes of Robert Griffin III and Trent Richardson.

Prospects of Poe's stature are a hot commodity in the NFL Draft because of their potential to anchor the middle of a 3-4 defense. However, after observing him complete a movement prep routine during a morning workout, it was clear that Poe is not your standard, space-eating defensive tackle. The workout comprised a variety of skipping, balancing and fast feet drills designed to prepare his body to perform more explosive movements.

At the end of a linear movement workout aimed at refining the technical aspects of the start of the 40-Yard Dash, it was clearly evident that Poe is a big man who can flat-out move.

The 2012 NFL Draft class is rich in talent at the defensive tackle position—five DTs could come off the board by the end of Round 1—but what separates Poe from the pack is his massive frame. Behind him, the next biggest tackle with first-round potential weighs roughly 20 pounds less.

Dontari Poe performs speed training drills.

Which Combine event is Poe most looking forward to? The 40-Yard Dash, of course.

Poe is a versatile defender whose thick frame and off-the-charts athleticism draw favorable comparisons to Phil Taylor, the Cleveland Browns' first-round pick in 2011. At last year's Combine, Taylor ran the 40-Yard Dash in 5.09 seconds, a time Poe is certainly capable of matching—or even bettering—if he fires on all cylinders in Indianapolis.

Most important for Poe is a fast start to the 40-Yard Dash. "The first 10 yards of the 40 is something [NFL scouts] look at with D-Linemen," he says. "They want to see how fast and explosive you are coming off the line of scrimmage."

He adds: "The next level at the NFL has some of the fastest athletes in the world, and I want to show that I can match their speed and intensity."

What NFL Draft experts are saying about Poe: "Poe is a freakish athlete for his size, and you rarely see players with his frame who move so well. He is so big and has enough initial quickness and power that he is fully capable of knocking blockers back off the line of scrimmage." —Todd McShay, ESPN/Scouts Inc.

Combine Workout Date for Poe (and the defensive line group): Monday, Feb. 27

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock