FanPost

Managing Our ExPoetations

Now that we're into the second week of training camp, and we're three months removed from the draft, I thought it might be worthwhile to talk about what we can expect from our 1st round draft pick, Dontari Poe. Many of us here on AP were not huge fans of the selection regardless of the fact that many have been clamoring for a true Nose Tackle prospect for quite some time on this very site (full disclosure, I'm a fan of the pick).

There were a lot of compelling arguments against the pick and probably an equal amount for the pick but my goal is not to sell the pick; it's too late for that, he's ours whether we like it or not. My intent is to try and demonstrate that despite his high selection at number 11, his future game stats may not indicate his worthiness of such a high selection to many of us. But numbers don't always tell the full story. In other words, let's insert a dose of reality into our expectations for our new rookie d-lineman.

To illustrate my point, I'm going to run you through some numbers for the first three years of what many consider to be the top five nose tackles in the NFL today. I've made an attempt to narrow the choice of the top five to nose tackles in a 3-4 defense. Many of you may disagree with the list but it's a pretty fair representation I believe.

After the jump, we're going to look at the Ravens' Haloti Ngata, Steelers' Casey Hampton, Jets' Sione Pouha, Packers' B.J. Raji and, of course, Patriots' Vince Wilfork. Over the past eight seasons, these nose tackles have a combined five Super Bowl titles. For this post, I'm using this article http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1124295-br-nfl-1000-top-64-defensive-tackles/ as well as some other sources.

First, let's take a look at where each was drafted, how many games they started in each season and their stats for individual tackles, combined tackles and sacks. I chose the first three seasons as many NFL pundits preach that it takes at least three years for defensive linemen to learn and adapt to the NFL game.

Name

Draft Position

Rookie Year

Second Year

Third Year

Starts

Comb

Tot

Sck

Starts

Comb

Tot

Sck

Starts

Comb

Tot

Sck

Haloti Ngata

12th

2006

16

31

13

1

16

63

43

3

16

55

43

1

Casey Hampton

19th

2001

11

22

9

1

15

40

23

2

16

39

27

1

Sione Pouha

88th

2005

0

9

7

0

0

0

0

0

1

40

35

0

B.J.

Raji

9th

2009

1

25

19

1

16

39

29

6.5

16

22

14

3

Vince Wilfork

21st

2004

6

42

27

2

16

54

40

.5

13

50

40

1

What do these numbers tell us? The most glaring thing that stands out for me is that the numbers aren't really all that big, particularly for the first season. Not a lot of individual tackles and certainly not a lot of sacks. Compared to other linemen, especially those DEs in a 4-3, the nose tackle in a 3-4 doesn't really stack up the numbers. Ngata and Wilfork being the exceptions and I would say they are the gold standard. If Poe turns in a similar stat sheet for the season, will it silence the naysayers?

The other thing that stands out is the number of games started. Ngata was the only 1st rounder to actually start all 16 games. Hampton comes in next but still only started 11 games. And then you have Raji who only started one game his first season. For a high pick like Poe, one can't necessarily expect him to start every game right out of training camp ala Ngata Haloti and Casey Hampton but it's conceivable that he does. It's reasonable to expect Romeo to bring him along slowly and he's indicated that's exactly what he plans to do. We should all consider Wilfork's first season as our guide and not go all ballistic should Poe not be in the starting lineup come September 9th. But one thing that is certain is that, judging by history, he should be a consistent starter by his sophomore season.

One interesting side note here, notice that Pouha obviously took some time to develop and that could be a good sign for our other prospective NTs in Toribio and Powe.

So if the individual stats aren't going to be all that great, what else can we consider? Perhaps his presence in the middle of the line will impact the overall level of play of the entire defense. There are myriad other ways to look objectively at defensive stats but I chose to just use the standard yards per game (YPG), passing yards given up (PSNG), rushing yards given up (RSH) and total sacks (SCK) for the team. Team scoring might have been a good approach but I only have so much time and so many brain cells left so this is what you get. Is it the best barometer of a team's defensive ability? Maybe not but here you go:

Team

Year Before Drafted

Rookie Year

2nd Year

3rd Year

Ngata - Ravens

5th YPG, 8th PSNG, 9th RSH, 8th SCK

1st YPG, 6th PSNG, 2nd RSH, 2nd SCK

6th YPG, 20th PSNG, 2nd RSH, 19th SCK

2nd YPG, 2nd PSNG, 3rd RSH, 11th SCK

Hampton - Steelers

7th YPG, 9th PSNG, 12th RSH, 17th SCK

1st YPG, 4th PSNG, 1st RSH, 1st SCK

7th YPG, 20th PSNG, 1st RSH, 3rd SCK

9th YPG, 11th PSNG, 12th RSH, 17th SCK

Pouha - Jets

7th YPG, 14th PSNG, 5th RSH, 17th SCK

12th YPG, 2nd PSNG, 29th RSH, 25th SCK

20th YPG, 14th PSNG, 24th RSH, 15th SCK

18th YPG, 9th PSNG, 29th RSH, 25th SCK

Raji - Packers

20th YPG, 12th PSNG, 26th RSH, 25th SCK

2nd YPG, 5th PSNG, 1st RSH, 11th SCK

5th YPG, 5th PSNG, 18th RSH, 2nd SCK

32 YPG, 32 PSNG, 14th RSH, 27th SCK

Wilfork - Pats

7th YPG, 15th PSNG, 4th RSH, 6th SCK

9th YPG,17th PSNG, 6th RSH, 3rd SCK

26th YPG, 31st PSNG, 8th RSH, 23rd SCK

6th YPG, 12th PSNG, 5th RSH, 5th SCK

This is probably not all that instructive. There are so many factors that go into team stats, not least of which is the health of the team, other player acquisitions and the loss of key players, not to mention the overall quality of players on the team. I was hoping to see some sort of immediate impact on team defense when I compiled the stats but to be truthful, it's not really all that apparent. The Pats, for instance, had just come off of a Super Bowl season when they picked up Wilfork and I submit that his presence on the line just reinforced what they were already doing. Same could be said for Ngata to Baltimore who already had a very stout defense. I looked at the team defensive stats prior to the player's first year as the gauge from which to start. It would appear Ngata's insertion onto the Ravens defensive line had an immediate impact. Same could be said of Hampton with the Steelers and certainly Raji with the Packers. Not so much with Wilfork and Pouha doesn't appear to have much of an impact at all for the time frame I've investigated. This was probably an exercise in futility but worth looking at nonetheless.

The last thing we'll look at is team record, which is really the only thing that truly matters. Did the team actually improve its won-lost percentage by the addition of the stout nose tackle? This is probably the one place that we can clearly see that one player, particularly a defensive lineman, does not a team make. I mean, after all, most of us here on AP know that if there's one position that can make or break a team it's the quarterback position (here's my shameful attempt to garner comments because I know any mention of the quarterback position on AP will bring out the boo-birds).

Team

Year Before Drafted

Rookie Year

2nd Year

3rd Year

Ravens

6-10

13-3 @ (lost divisional)

5-11

11-5 + (lost conf)

Steelers

9-7

13-3 @ (lost conf)

10-5 + (lost divisional)

6-10

Jets

10-6 + (lost divisional)

4-12

10-6 +

4-12

Packers

6-10

11-5 +

10-6 $

15-1 + (lost divisional)

Pats

14-2 $

14-2 $

10-6 @ (lost divisional)

12-4 @ (lost conf)

+Playoffs

@Division Champ

$ Super Bowl Champ

Clearly, all of the teams had a boost in the bottom line, with the notable exception of the Jets who actually got worse. Each of the others made the playoffs and had significantly better won-loss records. Now, much like the comments above regarding the overall improvement of the defensive stats, the won-loss record can't necessarily be attributed to the addition of one player, especially a nose tackle. And if one looks at the Pats, well, they were coming off of a Super Bowl win the previous year (and they were able to pick up the 21st pick in the following draft I might add). The Ravens took a nose dive in Ngata's sophomore season while the other teams continued into the playoffs. The Steelers and Jets (although it's really pointless to discuss the Jets and Pouha in this post) dropped out of the playoffs in the third year after their nose tackles were selected.

I'm not sure that we've actually learned anything from this little exercise but, then again, this is not meant to prove that the addition of one high-level draft pick is going to result in a team playing in and winning a Super Bowl. We all know this is a team sport (don't we?) and that individual players don't necessarily have that large of an impact on the play of the entire team (Colts fans may disagree) but they can make a difference on the play of the squad with which they're playing.

My intent was to frame the inevitable discussion about Poe's play (or lack thereof) in such a way that was reasonable and within some sort of structure that may or may not be valid. So what are your exPoetations?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.

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