Dontari Poe, the NFL Draft's best nose tackle, opens up at the NFL Combine

While quarterbacks and pass rushers always come at a premium, they're not nearly as hard to come by as true nose tackles. In the 2012 NFL Draft, there is no better true nose tackle than Memphis' Dontari Poe.

The 6-foot-4, 346-pound Poe was a consistent force for Memphis the past three seasons, starting 30 of 35 games played and totaling 101 tackles and 21.5 tackles for loss. He did that predominantly playing over the nose in the Tigers' 3-4 formations, but he's also lined up at three- and five-technique. Due to injury, Poe has even lined up at outside the tackle after being urged to by coaches. Poe said he was comfortable playing outside.

"Versatility is huge," Pittsburgh Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert said. "You have to be able to play in a base defense first. But if there’s other things they can do from an athletic standpoint, that’s obviously a boon. It gives the coaches a lot more flexibility in what they can do. Is it necessary? No. Is it a bonus? Yes."

Poe said his biggest strength is his explosiveness, and he likes to surprise offensive linemen who think he only uses power moves.

"I think I can rush the passer a lot more than people think," Poe said. "I am used to playing nose tackle, but I played some three-technique, some five-technique. I'm pretty comfortable anywhere along the defensive line.

"I think I'm pretty explosive. That's probably my biggest strength. Most people think just because I'm big I do nothing but power. But I kind of use my quickness to my advantage."

Because he's the top nose tackle in this year's draft, he's often compared to Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton. With Hampton being 34 and rehabbing from ACL surgery, the Steelers could be in play for with pick No. 24. Poe could also get attention several of the other 3-4 teams picking in the back half of the first round or possibly be in play for the Colts with pick No. 34.

Whatever team drafts Poe, he's ready for his NFL dream to become reality.

"It's always been a dream. Back in high school, we kind of used to looked at it and think it was so far away," Poe said. "But now, at the end of my college career and getting this opportunity, it's a blessing and a dream come true. But it's also a job and a business and it's become a reality. So I'm getting used to it as a I go."

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