Dateline - Thursday, April 26th. The agony. The Chiefs just selected a workout warrior. A winner of the underwear olympics, with little to no impressive game tape. 64 snaps a game against Conference USA competition with THOSE stats? Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel must be out of their minds, right? I mean, there were countless defensive tackles left on the board! A 3-4 inside linebacker that would fit our system was available! A top rated guard, too! And yet, we picked THIS guy?
Yeah, the initial reaction wasn't great. There's still a lot of resentment about the pick on the site right now, and for good reason. There are a ton of question marks about the guy, and while the transition to the NFL is tough for most players, it would appear that Poe's transition is going to be an even bigger hill to climb. However, follow me through this post, and let me see if I can convince you that, from a scheme and versatility standpoint, this was not only a good pick, but it was the right pick.
Anyone who has followed my arguments for/against specific players leading up to this draft has read that I tend to fall in a "what makes our team more versatile" argument more often than not. I had been an advocate for an inside linebacker to play next to Derrick Johnson who would be able to eliminate the Chiefs tendencies to trot out a two-lineman, three-linebacker, six-defensive back formation and make the base defense stronger against the run and the pass on most downs. It introduced scheme versatility to the defense, and would help stop the offense from spreading the Chiefs out, and running up a weakened center of the defense. A versatile inside linebacker would help do all of these things, and could help build on a solid foundation.
What I didn't count on was the Chiefs finding a man in the center of the defense that they believe can affect the scheme in a way that should build even further than a linebacker would.
I've clamored for a nose tackle for damn near four years now. I've hinged my hopes on the draft, looking at big men who can fill the black hole that is ever present at this time each year. We've filled the position with journeymen and veterans at the ends of their career, and have passed on a number of young guys in early rounds. I understand why...nose tackles are two-down players. Rarely will you see a big man on the field in passing situations, and those players are typically the elite 3-4 linemen. Unless you're looking at Vince Wilfork in the draft, is the dropoff/value differential that large? Typically, no.
So why now?
Because you don't pass up on three-down nose tackles. Say what you will about his production and skill at this juncture. It all could be true, and the kid could fall flat on his face. What you can't argue is what a three-down nose tackle brings to the table. They can eat blockers on running downs, freeing the linebackers to make plays or form a gigantic wall that allows nothing through the play. Then, when the other team is stuck in an obvious passing down, you can still leave your run stuffer on the field! The guy will be asked to get after the passer, but they shouldn't get steamrolled off the line like Gilberry and Bailey did in the dime defense. Three-downers are big presences that can play 50 snaps and force you to account for them with every play. I wanted a linebacker to help strengthen the run and pass, but if Poe can translate into even a marginal three-down nose tackle, that is so much more valuable to this defense.
I didn't want the Chiefs to draft Dontari Poe. I thought he'd land somewhere like Baltimore and turn into a stud, but I didn't think I wanted the Chiefs to waste the time on him. I also didn't consider him a three-down nose tackle until I was able to look further at him after the pick was made. He's got a large number of question marks, for sure. We've also seen Romeo Crennel and Anthony Pleasant make some journeymen linemen (Shaun Smith, Amon Gordon, Ron Edwards) look pretty damn good, all things considered. The Chiefs have passed on SO many nose tackles while in the 3-4 that seem far more suited to the spot than Poe does. However, Romeo wouldn't take on something he didn't feel he could fix, and from what I've seen, the kid doesn't have a whole lot of quit in him. We can all hope the skills and techniques required will be imparted, because what he brings to the table in scheme alone makes him worth a shot.
Romeo knows. Pioli knows. You don't pass up a three-down nose tackle.