By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Polite flashed some natural pass-rushing skills as a freshman and sophomore for Florida, but then as a junior, he broke out as one of the nation’s best pass-rushers. Polite notched two sacks as a freshman, and in 2017, he totaled 22 tackles with 5.5 tackles for a loss, and two sacks. He put everything together on the field during his junior year when he dominated the SEC. In 2018, Polite totaled 11 sacks with six forced fumbles, 45 tackles, 17.5 tackles for a loss and four passes batted. After that tremendous season, WalterFootball.com was first to report that Polite planned on entering the 2019 NFL Draft. He should have returned to school to work on improving his off-the-field issues, but he decided to skip his senior year.
The pre-draft process has been an utter disaster for Polite. After the season, he was viewed as being a pick to go in the early teens, but now, he would be fortunate to be selected during the second day of the 2019 NFL Draft. WalterFootball.com was first to report that teams had significant off-the-field and makeup concerns about Polite, with some teams being close to dropping him off their boards entering the combine. Then at the NFL Scouting Combine, Polite bombed in the team meetings before taking himself out of the workout.
Polite then had an ugly pro day. Here is what one team source said about Polite at the Gators’ pro day, “Sluggish and heavy – running a 5.02 40 – and tweaked his right hamstring. Lazy not to finish in the DE/LB drills too and wasn’t starring. It’s who he is, and the slide continues.” After this colossal failure in the pre-draft process, Polite would be fortunate to get selected in the third round, while the first or second round seems like a tragic lost opportunity.
Multiple sources say that they have significant maturity and accountability concerns with Polite. They hear that Polite quit on the Jim McElwain coaching staff during the 2017 season and was recruiting other players to join him on quitting on the team. Team staffers are also concerned that Polite could have issues avoiding suspensions in the NFL because of his off-the-field habits. Polite didn’t help himself with poor combine interviews and gave teams concerns about his football I.Q in the interviews. Some sources with the Gators said Polite was liked and was a good teammate, but his terrible interviews with NFL teams in response to character concerns are weighing heavily on his draft stock.
There is a lot to like about Polite as a player, including his excellent tape from 2018 which showed him to be a dynamite quarterback hunter. Polite is a dangerous pass-rusher who shows good instincts and natural feel on the edge. He has good play recognition and uses his instincts to get in the right position to affect the quarterback or disrupt plays. As an edge defender, Polite has huge potential. He has the skill set to be an annual double-digit sack producer in the NFL if he commits himself to working hard and being the best he can be.
As a pure pass-rusher, Polite is fast off the edge with an excellent first-step and the speed to turn the corner while darting by offensive tackles. On top of his ability to fire off the snap and flat out run by tackles, he has a second gear with impressive closing speed to finish plays. Polite shows an inside counter move as well that makes it hard on tackles to commit to just trying to stop his speed rush around the corner. He has a the potential for a repertoire of moves with a spin move and an ability to dip under blockers. When he gets there, Polite is physical, putting quarterbacks and running backs down hard into the turf. He also has good instincts to go for the strip with good awareness to adjust to scrambling quarterbacks.
Polite is just okay against the run. Sometimes, he flashes well, but there other times when he has seemed not that interested and does not appear to go all out. Some team sources say that they put in his report that he doesn’t always want to play against the run. That meshes with the personality and work ethic he has displayed throughout the pre-draft process.
Polite would fit best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. If he is drafted to play in a 4-3, he will have to be a rotational defensive end who is mostly a designated pass-rusher.
Given all of the off-the-field issues, Polite would be lucky to be a second-round pick. Perhaps the most likely landing spot would be late third round or early fourth round.
Player Comparison: DeMarcus Lawrence. One team source said that Polite did some things last fall that reminded them of Von Miller. However, I don’t think Polite will be as good as Miller in the NFL because of his off-the-field issues. I think the best case scenario would be Polite turning into a pro similar to Lawrence. Lawrence has had off-the-field issues and suspensions in the NFL, but he has turned into a very good player for the Cowboys. Both Polite and Lawrence have natural feel as dynamic speed rushers coming off the edge. Lawrence (6-3, 265) and Polite are almost identical in size and left college with similar skill sets. Lawrence was a second-day pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, and Polite could go on day 2 this year.
NFL Matches: San Francisco, Oakland, Detroit, Atlanta, New York Giants, New York Jets, Washington, Carolina, Tennessee, Houston, New England, Kansas City
On the second day and in the mid-rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft, Polite has a lot of potential landing spots, depending on who is willing deal with his off-the-field issues. The 49ers and Raiders both need more edge-rushing talent. However, they both run 4-3 schemes that may not be a good fit for Polite. Ditto for Detroit and Atlanta as teams that could use help at defensive end but are based out of a 4-3 primarily.
A fit for Polite could be with either New York team. The Giants need more edge-rushing talent, and Polite could interest them on Day 2, although Dave Gettleman has generally avoided players with off-the-field issues. Still in their 3-4 scheme, Polite would be a nice fit as an outside linebackers. Staying in the Big Apple, Polite could be in play for the Jets’ third-round pick as they need to get more edge-rushing talent and Polite would provide excellent bang for their buck at that point of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Redskins could use more young edge rushers, and Polite wound be a good fit in their 3-4 scheme. Now that Julius Peppers is gone, Carolina has to get more edge-rushing talent across from Mario Addison and both Addison and Bruce Irvin are in the last year of their contracts. Polite could be a fit for the Redskins or Panthers in the third round, plus both of those teams come armed with multiple third-round picks.
Tennessee could use a young pass-rusher to groom behind Cameron Wake. In the long run, Polite could fit the Titans’ 3-4 defense across from Harold Landry. Elsewhere in the AFC South, Polite could be a fit for the Texans. Jadeveon Clowney is entering free agency, while Whitney Mercilus is showing signs of decline. Polite could fit Romeo Crennell’s defense nicely, but Bill O’Brien is probably incapable of working with a player like Polite.
Both the Patriots and Chiefs are loaded with extra second-day picks, so either could consider Polite with one of those selections. Both teams also could use young edge rushers and have good coaching staffs that would know how to use and develop Polite.
2019 NFL Mock Draft: Charlie’s | Walt’s
2019 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings
2019 NFL Draft Scouting Reports
NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22
2024 NFL Mock Draft - Feb. 21
Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19
NFL Picks - Feb. 12