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Jachai Polite: An Undersized Or Undervalued Pass Rusher?

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Hogs Haven takes a look at 2019 NFL Draft prospects that could contribute to the Redskins

Jachai Polite, EDGE
School: Florida | Conference: SEC
College Experience: Junior | Age: 20 (will be 21 at draft)
Height / Weight: 6-3 / 258 lbs
Projected Draft Status: 2nd or 3rd round
NFL Comparison: Dee Ford

College Statistics

Player Overview

Jachai (pronounced juh-KYE) Polite was born and raised in Daytona Beach, FL, eventually attending nearby Mainland High School where he played basketball as well as football. As a defensive lineman in high school, he recorded 81 tackles, 13 sacks and two forced fumbles and was named 2nd team all-state his junior year (2014), but his senior year (2015) was derailed by injury, only recording 10 tackles and 4 sacks. Ranked a 3 star prospect out of high school, Jachai committed to the nearby University of Florida. His freshman year (2016) at Florida, Jachai weighed 271 lbs and played as a reserve 3-technique defensive tackle, recording 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. His sophomore season (2017) he was moved to defensive end, but his season was cut short by a shoulder injury and he only recorded 22 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks in seven games. Leading up to his junior year (2018), Florida changed from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, and Jachai committed to losing weight in an effort to play the role of a 3-4 OLB. He succeeded in losing almost 20 lbs to drop to a reported playing weight of 242 lbs. The drop in weight and position change enabled Jachai to breakout, recording 45 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and lead the FBS with six forced fumbles. He was named first-team All-SEC and second team All-American.

Polite was widely expected to be a late 1st round pick heading into the NFL combine, but proceeded to have what some have called “the worst NFL combine of all time.” Polite weighed in at 258 lbs and, reportedly nursing a hamstring injury as well, he only jumped a 32 inch vertical and ran a disappointing 4.84 second 40-yard dash. Claiming a reaggravation of his hamstring injury, Polite refused to do any more athletic tests at the combine. In addition, measurements confirmed that Polite is slightly undersized for an OLB, standing 6’ 2 5/8” tall and with 32 5/8” arms. As if the poor measurables weren’t enough, Polite reportedly bombed both private interviews with teams as well as public interviews with media, feeding into rumors that teams were concerned about his maturity and work ethic. In media interviews, he complained that teams “just bashed me the whole time” and in response to a reporter’s detailed question about his technique on film, said “I never really even watch myself that much to know that,” leading many to question his film study.

Strengths

  • Explosive get off, can get around an OT before he has time to react.
  • Great bend and balance for getting around the edge.
  • Excellent motor. Does not wear down at the end of games.
  • Good effort, keeps fighting until the whistle is blown.
  • Good vision into the backfield, rarely fooled by fakes, tracks the ball well and goes to it. Good awareness to leap to block a ball in the air too.
  • Maintains assignments well, was frequently used to set outside contain and was an effective spy on QB.
  • Has a knack for forcing fumbles, attacks the ball when tackling.
  • Rarely asked to cover, but showed willingness and athletic traits to cover well when dropping into coverage.
  • Learned nice spin move that he used to good effect partway through 2018.
  • Noticeable improvement in technique over the course of his 2018 season.
  • Very well liked and held in high regard by his teammates. Considered a good locker room guy.

Weaknesses

  • Undersized for the position, lacking the ideal height, arm length, and lean weight of the prototypical OLB.
  • Gets pushed around on run blocks.
  • Struggles using his hands and leverage to disengage from blocks.
  • Poor tackling technique, often tackles too high or relies on tripping up ball carriers.
  • Poor at converting speed to power, gets walled off if he can’t win with speed or bend around the edge.
  • Poor combine measurables.
  • Poor interviews at combine.
  • Very raw in many ways, 1st year as OLB and 2nd year as EDGE was sometimes visible.
  • Moderate injury history. Injuries marred 2 of his last 5 seasons.

Let’s see his work:

The games above are in chronological order, with Kentucky coming very early in the season, LSU in the middle of the season, and Michigan at the end of the season. Polite shows marked improvement with many aspects of his technique by the LSU game, incorporating a nice spin move to good effect and stringing together several pass rush moves to show more planning in his attack. LSU was clearly his best game, but it looks like he was used to set outside contain and spy the QB more against Kentucky and Michigan, reducing his pass rush role.

More about Jachai Polite

How He Would Fit On The Redskins

I am prepared to disregard all of his combine but the height/length measurements, especially if he has a good Pro Day. I think Polite is just one of those guys who bombed the combine, similar to Orlando Brown Jr last year (who went on to have a very good rookie season) and Dalvin Cook the year before. Watching the video of him responding to questions at the Combine, I get the feeling he was just completely unprepared for the media and the harshness of team interviews. The video of his responses certainly looks much better than the Tweets by reporters about them afterwards; he looks like a genuine, honest guy who just says the first thing that comes to mind. I haven’t seen any reports of his teammates questioning his work ethic, and his improvement over the course of the 2018 season after switching to a new position was very apparent on tape. I think the media ruckus that has been kicked up about Polite has gone too far, and I even suspect that some teams may be feeding it in an attempt to lower his draft stock. Indeed, digging a little deeper into his background, there was much to like about him. His Twitter handle is @RetireMoms, a handle he came up with in 8th grade because his goal even then was to make enough money that his hard-working mother could retire. UF’s new head coach Dan Mullen introduced the “Juice Guy” award, given each day to the player who brought the most energy to practice and was unrelenting in his charged-up attitude. Polite won the award more times than any other player in 2018. I trust the tape more than the combine, and the tape shows an explosive player who doesn’t quit and got better as the season wore on.

All that being said, there are concerns with Polite. He’s undersized, poor at stopping the run, has a bit of an injury history, and has yet to show that he can add weight and strength without sacrificing speed. In his rookie year in the NFL, he will probably be best used as a situational pass rusher in obvious passing situations, which probably knocks him out of the 1st round. Based on the tape alone, I think I’d project him as a 2nd round pick. Given the poor combine, I could see him dropping to the 3rd. Depending on how the draft shakes out, that would put him in range for the Redskins to take him if they don’t go EDGE in round 1. He would be an interesting complement to Ryan Anderson, who is a strong, violent run defender, but struggles to get after the QB.