NAME: Jachai Polite
POSITION: EDGE Defender
JERSEY: No. 99
RECRUITMENT RATING: 3-star
WT: 240 lbs
Burst – Has a slight recoil from a 2-point stance that delays his initial get-off enough to limit his first step explosiveness. After that he’s a blur. If he can eliminate that false step, might have more juice up the arc than any edge rusher in the class. Extremely fast up the arc and can push tackles into oversets right away. Couple times he put his hands in the dirt, the get-off was biblical.
Bend – When the edge is soft, he can bend it tight to the quarterback. Where he struggles is bending through contact at his light weight. Doesn’t quite create the force at the top of the arc to power through a punch while turning the corner, can get pushed upfield as a result. When he beats the tackle clean however, shows the hip flexibility and ankle bend to tighten quickly and crush passers. Drops his shoulder to finish. Does a good job rotating his hips at the top of the arc to minimize surface area, athletic enough to swing his whole body around and scrape for a strip-sack.
Rush Moves – Way more diverse than just a simple speed-bend rusher. Can ice pick tackles out of nowhere, also shows the ability to cross-chop and finish. Does an outstanding job of lulling tackles to sleep with stutter steps and is really good at slipping around contact. Transitions from stab to rip or shoulder dip quickly. Can’t convert speed-to-power, and if he gets gripped up, the fight is usually over. Lack of length and power definitely limit him at times.
Counters – Ability to convert speed to counters is top-notch. Ridiculously sudden spin move that left offensive tackles clutching for air. Knows how to setup his counters by selling speed up the arc. Body control is top-notch. Crafty in his movements and constantly works back to the depth of the quarterback as a rusher.
Run Defense – Super slight frame that will get overwhelmed at times in the trenches. Physically can’t matchup with power/technique types, but don’t tell him that. Plays with a physicality and nastiness in the run game that adds enough punch to his game to hold his own. Active and well-placed hands shed blocks better than you think. May give a little ground off the snap, but typically works off contact quickly to defend his gap. Outstanding range and constantly makes plays to the boundary. Ability to fend off blockers while continuing to move laterally and string out perimeter runs is top-notch. Takes tight ends personally, although Isaac Nauta got him a few times. Might get knocked on his butt a time or two, but has ability to slip blockers that will allow him to create negative plays too.
Lateral Mobility – All-around movement skills are top-notch. Adjusts his angle on the fly and will re-route quickly to track the ball. Able to change directions in space quickly, rarely dropped into coverage but clearly has the traits to do so. Not many backs could outrun him to the perimeter. Stop/start action is best in the class.
Mental Processing/Vision – Consistently steps down in unblocked situations to wrong-arm pullers. You can argue his effectiveness in those situations (he doesn’t blow blockers up), but not his processing or effort. Thinks the game fast as a pass rusher. Responds to bad sets appropriately and sees chips coming. Works back inside to avoid getting doubled up on the edge. Finds the ball quickly and gets in pursuit. Occasionally gets too deep against the run and will expand his gap unnecesarily.
Tackling/Finishing – Not the biggest or longest tackler, but consistently brings it and finishes decisively. Outstanding at targeting the football during sacks, six strip sacks this season and several more that were so close to being fumbles. Makes sure quarterbacks feel it.
Competitive Toughness – Plays with his hair on fire and makes tons of plays in pursuit. Aggressive and physical, despite winning more as a finesse pass rusher. Effort and motor are consistently top-notch.
Athleticism/Size – Weight and small overall frame are concerns. Appears to lack bulk all over his frame and doesn’t have ideal length for the position. Should test as one of the top all-around athletes in the class at this position.
BEST TRAIT – Arc Speed/Bend
WORST TRAIT – POA Run Defense
RED FLAGS – None
Jachai Polite is being billed as a pass rush specialist, and while it’s true that is often how Florida deployed him, he has played against the run plenty this season and more than held his own. What Polite lacks as a point-of-attack powerhouse he makes up for with good technique, exceptional range and the ability to slip blocks and make plays behind the line of scrimmage.
Yes, I’d like to see the NFL put some more meat on his bones, but Polite plays sudden and physical, which are better traits to have than bulk. His pass rush game is pretty polished, and his ability to win with speed and bend opens up inside counters all day. NFL teams may overlook him because of his frame, but the traits are here for Polite to be a double-digit sack guy at the next level. The one catch? He might not be as scheme diverse as the other top guys due to his size limiting him to a 3-4 outside linebacker role.
PROS: Jachai Polite illustrates flashes of brilliance as a speed rusher. Capable of releasing with suddenness from a two point stance and gaining large amounts of turf in steps two and three in order to gain leverage on the edge. Athletic ability translates beyond short area explosiveness and into lateral mobility and slipping blocks at the point of attack as well. Polite shows understanding of how and when to fold back inside against over-committed blockers and gain penetration into protection.
Polite possesses enough length to continue to develop his long arm ability and become a better speed to power rusher. Projecting through rough edges currently, Polite has the necessary physical tools to become a special pass rusher and impact player. There is enough functional strength present to stack up blockers at the point of attack and Polite is effective holding outside contain. Against the running game he can be counted on to execute his primary responsibility.
CONS: Jachai Polite currently has too many lulls between the splash plays and will need to focus on further bettering his consistency as a player. Effort and motor are terrific, although seemingly a half-step faster on money downs and when the stakes are highest. Furthermore, Polite would be well served to continue developing his immediate hand counters. Currently too reliant on his first step, Polite can create much more room to slash and penetrate with more proactive attacks with his hands.