Crennel is key to Dontari Poe pick

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
11:08
PM ET

Had Todd Haley remained the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, the selection of Dontari Poe may not have worked.

But the Chiefs are now Romeo Crennel’s team, and that’s why taking Poe at No. 11 in the NFL draft on Thursday might be a shrewd move for a team that has missed by taking defensive lineman high in the draft in the past decade.

Poe is a classic example of the long NFL draft process. He wasn’t considered a top pick when the massive Memphis defensive tackle entered the NFL draft. However, after he stole headlines at the NFL combine in February, he became a projected top-five pick. That happens when a 6-foot-3, 345-pound man runs a 4.98 40-yard dash and bench presses 225 pounds 44 times. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Poe is the only player over 330 pounds to run a sub-five second time since 2006.

However, after Poe put himself in the spotlight, teams closely dissected him and saw a player with immense ability that didn’t always show on the field against marginal competition. It was alarming and it still is.

“I’m still waiting for Poe to unleash the fury,” ESPN analyst Jon Gruden said moments after the Chiefs made him the pick.

This is what ESPN analyst Todd McShay had about Poe last week:

“I see the workout numbers, and I found myself wanting and waiting and wishing and hoping is what I keep saying. Every single play I watched from Memphis just hoping that he would make a big play. He will disrupt and he'll be involved in some plays, but for a guy that you're talking about potential top 10, top 12 pick, I just didn't see the production, and I just didn't see a guy who understands and has a great feel for the game, and that's not to say he won't develop, and he very well may, and one day he may be a junior Haloti Ngata. But Haloti Ngata coming out was a much better football player than Dontari Poe is right now, and that scares me, and that's why I've dropped him to where he is as the third best defensive tackle, somewhere in kind of the middle range … I've got him at 19 overall in the class.”

In the days leading up to the draft, there was talk that Poe’s lack of consistent game film would override his off-the-charts ability, and he’d be picked in the 20-25 range. However, the Chiefs took another swipe at a defensive lineman early in the draft. Bypassing a safe pick such as Stanford guard David DeCastro, the Chiefs went boom or bust with Poe.

[+] EnlargeDontari Poe
Brian Spurlock/US PRESSWIREDontari Poe became the only player over 330 pounds to run a sub-five second time at the combine, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
The decision to take Poe is understandable. The Chiefs, who had an outstanding free-agency period, do not have many holes. If Poe fills the nose tackle position as the team hopes he does, the Chiefs will be one of the most talented teams in the NFL and a real playoff threat. According to ESPN Stats and Information, last season Kansas City had one sack, two batted passes and three tackles for loss by its nose tackle -- and that was from the aging Kelly Gregg, a free agent.

The Chiefs hope to get better production out of Poe than they have from other defensive linemen they've taken in the first round of recent years. The team took Ryan Sims at No. 6 in the 2002 draft and he was a terrible bust. In 2008, they took defensive end Glenn Dorsey at No. 5 and in 2009 they took Tyson Jackson at No. 3. Both Dorsey and Jackson remain in Kansas City, but they have not been impact players.

Yet, they have improved in the past two years under Crennel, who became the Chiefs’ defensive coordinator in 2010 before taking over for Haley. I think Crennel is a key to the Poe pick.

Crennel is known as one of the best defensive line coaches in NFL history and he is known for getting questionable motors to start.

Poe may have a new best friend in Crennel. He is nurturer and he believes in his players. We saw the impact Crennel had on the entire Kansas City roster. The players loved the difference between the impatient and often caustic Haley and the calm, encouraging Crennel.

If think Crennel will motivate and teach Poe. Haley would have berated him and goaded him. I have a feeling Poe may respond more positively to Crennel’s approach. Crennel will teach him to become an NFL player and use his natural ability. Remember, this kid started high school as a drummer in the band. He is still raw.

Crennel has the patience and expertise to make Poe a good player and get the most out of this pick. If not, it will go down as another swing and miss on the defensive line in Kansas City.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN Oakland Raiders reporter

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