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There are two teams in the NFL desperately in need of a new defensive tackle. The Seattle Seahawks, who have the 12th pick in this year’s NFL draft, and the Dallas Cowboys with the 14th pick. There are two prospects that teams have shown interest in: University of Memphis’s Dontari Poe and Mississippi State University’s Fletcher Cox.

Nose tackle Dontari Poe is the largest prospective first round draft pick this year, measuring 6’3’’ and weighing in at 346 lbs., yet he ran a 4.98 second 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine in February. ESPN Insider’s Bruce Feldman listed Poe as one of the “10 strongest men in college football” last year. He can also blitz around the edge, like a defensive end, or explode off of the snap and slide right by offensive linemen to pressure the quarterback. His strength and raw talent have led some analysts to compare him to Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata.
Seattle could use Poe to add depth to their defensive line. An unrestricted free agent in 2013, starting defensive tackle Alan Branch, who is a hardworking, yet run-of-the-mill tackle, could be replaced by Poe. Poe would then complement first-string tackle Brandon Mebane, who has a five-year contract lasting until 2016. The only drawback is that Seattle’s 4-3 defense isn’t the best scheme for a nose tackle like Poe.

Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones has stated that his team is in the market for a defensive lineman, and Clarence Hill of the Fort Worth Star Telegram reports that Jones is fond of Poe. A source told Hill that the Cowboys have not brought Poe in for a pre-draft visit because they do not want to give away their infatuation with the prospective player. Cowboys nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who is undersized at 287 lbs., could replace 33-year-old defensive end Kenyon Coleman after his contract expires next year. This would allow Poe to take nose in Dallas’ 3-4 defense.

Many mock drafts have Cox going before Poe, though. This is because Poe, who looked good at the combine, did not produce results in college. He managed 57 solo tackles, five sacks and four forced fumbles in all four years of his career. Comparing 2011 seasons, Cox had 26 solo tackles, 14.5 tackles for a loss and five sacks, while Poe only had 18 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and one sack. Cox is also much better at disengaging for blocks and using his hands to swim through defenders.

Because Cox is battle-proven, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Seahawks spent their pick on him, leaving Dallas to gamble on Poe. This would be a good arrangement, because Cox is already acquainted with Seattle’s defensive scheme and Poe would fit in perfectly in Dallas.

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