A tick over 5-foot-10, Brian Poole won’t blow you away with measurables or stand out in warmups on a field among much larger, more physically gifted players; yet his production, and consistency, have him as one of the most surprising available veterans still on the open market.
The versatile Poole has progressed into one of the top nickel corners in all of football with five seasons and 70 NFL games under his belt; he ranks as the sixth-best nickel defender since the start of the 2019 season, according to Pro Football Focus. Poole initially made his presence felt roaming the apex of Atlanta’s defense for three seasons, before making the transition to New York where the Jets asked Poole to slide up in depth to man the nickel spot due to the presence of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye.
Poole’s value could be priceless for a team that suffers from injury prior to Week 1, or is just looking to add juice within the backend of their defense. Either way, Poole should be employed.
Here are three teams who could be in line for Poole’s services.
While Indianapolis has its two outside corners set in stone in Xavier Rhodes and Kenny Moore II, the nickel spot and who exactly head coach Frank Reich’s eyes manning the position remains in question. The selection of Rock Ya-Sin just two seasons ago was looked upon, at the time, as the solution to the Colts’ issue within the secondary; but it’s only added to the decreasing amount of optimism Colts brass has towards the now third-year man after failing to show signs of progression in 28 games.
Poole, however, could be a nice addition. The trio could also in turn boost the play of the youth-infused safeties room of Khari Willis and Julian Blackmon, providing even further veteran leadership to pair with the uber-experienced Rhodes and Moore. While the Colts are expected to have an above-average front seven, and in turn, compete as a whole, the plug-in pop of Poole within the secondary should draw interest from general manager Chris Ballard.
Sticking with the AFC South, the Titans slide right into line as potential suitors for Poole. While the team released Adoree’ Jackson and Malcolm Butler, it added Janoris “JJ” Jenkins and drafted Caleb Farley and Elijah Molden to boost the secondary. However, Jenkins is 32 and isn’t getting any younger; Farley, until proven healthy, remains a question mark; and Molden is a rookie, although very talented. You see where Poole could serve his value.
While Molden provides a traditional mold covering the slot, he could sit behind Poole or work rotationally as a sub-package safety to easing his onboarding process within a rather weak divisional wideout group. If Jenkins turns back the clock, and Farley rids the injury bug, the addition of Poole could round out a nice cluster of defenders for one of the league’s worst units in defending the pass in 2020.
Head coach Mike Tomlin has hinted at fifth-year man Cameron Sutton filling the shoes of recently departed Mike Hilton to man the slot, but Poole would calm the waves of uncertainty as the Steelers enter a massive year for the underlying future of their franchise. Unlike the AFC South, the AFC North is infused with pass-catching talent across the division, and most be prepared for accordingly if the Steelers eye both a division crown and a longer stay in the playoffs. A hard-nosed, smooth, fleet-footed corner in Poole would be a late-cycle steal who could slide in seamlessly to Tomlin’s top-five defense.