AFC West: David DeCastro
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.
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.
The Kansas City Chiefs went for their biggest need and ended any thought that Dontari Poe would fall down the draft board in one decision, taking the Memphis nose tackle with the No. 11 overall pick.
The Chiefs bypassed Mississippi State defensive lineman Fletcher Cox and Stanford guard David DeCastro to take Poe.
In terms of sheer talent, Poe was the right pick. But there is concern that he doesn’t play up to his immense measurables. Poe showed stunning speed and strength at the combine at 6-foot-3, 345 pounds. However, his game film was not strong against marginal college competition.
Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli is big on production, so this pick is a bit surprising. However, if Poe does play well, it’s a major score. Nose tackle was really the last hole in Kansas City.
In my individual team mock drafts, posted earlier Thursday, DeCastro and Hightower remained the picks for Kansas City and San Diego. But my pick for Denver was not Worthy. It was LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers.
Brockers wasn’t available in our Monday mock. However, in the mock I did for Thursday’s post, I had Dallas (who was slotted for Brockers in Monday’s mock) passing on Brockers. If that is the case, I could see him falling to Denver.
If not, I think Worthy could easily be the pick. I just wanted to clarify the reasoning between the changes in the Denver choice from Monday.
Summary: This draft would complete a strong offseason for the Chiefs. Players such as Cole, Criner, Gray and Coale would all be good value choices. The Cousins pick is almost a freebie. The Chiefs don’t have many holes and he is a good developmental player.
No. 11, Kansas City
Kiper pick: David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
McShay pick: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis
My take: In our bloggers live mock draft Monday, I went with DeCastro. I think the Chiefs will believe he is a safer pick than Poe. He has scared some teams off because of a lack of college production.
No. 18, San Diego
Kiper pick: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
McShay pick: DeCastro
My take: These are two interesting picks. I think, in Kiper’s scenario, Poe may be a more needed pick team Reiff, although Reiff would be a good value pick. I love DeCastro as a choice, but in McShay’s scenario, I might take North Carolina pass-rusher Quinton Coples because of need. Either way, these drafts fall pretty well for San Diego.
No. 25, Denver
Kiper pick: Michael Brockers, DT, LSU
McShay pick: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
My take: I think both of these mocks are on par. If Brockers is available, he will likely be the choice. If not, Worthy is a smart pick. Denver would be happy either way.
Oakland traded the No. 17 pick to Cincinnati in a package for quarterback Carson Palmer.
DeCastro could start right away by replacing veteran Ryan Lilja and would likely play opposite Jon Asomoah. The third-round pick in 2010 started every game last season and the team is excited about him.
The Chiefs also apear to be going young at center. While a final decision hasn’t been made, it appears Casey Wiegmann will retire at the age of 38. The Chiefs seem comfortable with going with second-year player Rodney Hudson as the starting center.
Hudson was a second-round pick last season. Even if Wiegmann decided to play, the Chiefs would likely opt to go with Hudson with Lilja being a potential backup at center if DeCastro were drafted.
There is a youth movement afoot on the Chiefs line and a DeCastro selection would increase it.
These were not the results I was expecting in our Blogger Mock Draft Live held Monday.
However, I feel pretty good about the players we pegged to come to the AFC West. Each divisional blogger was in charge of picking for each team in their division in the first round. I based my decisions on value of the picks and what I thought the decision makers on each team would do in that situation.
Let’s review the film:
Kansas City: I was tempted to try to move up to No. 7 to take Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. I could see the Chiefs doing it, but I’m just not sure they want to spend what it takes to get him, so I stayed at No. 11. I would have taken Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, but he went two spots earlier. In the end, I chose Stanford guard David DeCastro. I think he was the best value player at the spot and he would be an instant impact player on the offense. Many scouts believe DeCastro will be a perennial Pro Bowl player. It’s time to make that Kansas City O-line special again.
San Diego: I think San Diego general manager A.J. Smith will be willing to do anything. When South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram dropped, I started to work on a trade up. I was talking to NFC West blogger Mike Sando about a deal for Ingram at No. 12 with Seattle in case he fell. But in an intra-division deal, James Walker had the Jets give a load to Buffalo to take Ingram at No. 10. Then, when North Carolina pass-rusher Quinton Coples fell, I hit the phones again. I was close to a deal with AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky at No. 15, but he wanted more and he wanted to make a decision, so talks stalled. When the No. 18 pick came around, I went with Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower over pass-rushers such as Syracuse’s Chandler Jones or Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus. I picked Hightower because Smith values talent regardless of need and Hightower was the best player on the board. Todd McShay has him ranked as the No. 13 available player. He is an impact player and he’d be the Chargers’ best inside linebacker. Plus, he is a solid pass-rusher from the inside. It all came down to value.
Denver: In our previous blogger mock draft, LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers fell to Denver at No. 25. He was taken at No. 14 by Dallas this time. There was a chance Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe was going to be there, but, predictably, Pittsburgh took him at No. 24. I then considered trading the pick or taking Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill. In the end, I went for need and value and took Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy. He is a good player who will start right away and McShay has him ranked as the No. 22 player available. If this is the way the draft falls on Thursday, I can see the Broncos trading down a few spots and still getting Worthy.
Oakland does not have its pick (No. 17). It was sent to Cincinnati in a package for quarterback Carson Palmer.
Will the Chiefs make a big move up? The Kansas City Chiefs could become the story of the division with a move up for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill. There has been recent buzz that the Chiefs may be one of the teams interested in moving up for Tannehill. If he is available at No. 7 (Miami may take Tannehill at No. 8), I could see the Chiefs jumping in the mix. Jacksonville, which has the No. 7 pick, probably would be willing to part with the pick or the Chiefs could take a risk and hope he falls to No. 11. Tannehill is the only attainable quarterback who could immediately press Matt Cassel.
Will a second-day quarterback be on the way? I think a Friday storyline could be the addition of a second-tier quarterback in the division. If the Chiefs don’t take Tannehill, they could take a quarterback in the second or third round, and Denver could take one on the second day as well. The quarterbacks available on the second day probably will be Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins, Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler and Arizona’s Nick Foles. Kansas City could look at any of the four and Denver is probably in the mix for all but Weeden. He will soon turn 29, and with Peyton Manning in Denver, I don’t think the Broncos will take an older quarterback.
Will there be a changing of the guard? Stanford’s David DeCastro is considered one of the best guard prospects in the past several years and he is considered a sure thing. Both the Chiefs and Chargers are considered teams that could land DeCastro.
Will the Raiders make a move up? The Raiders don’t pick until No. 95, the final pick of the third round. Oakland could move up to get a better prospect, but I wouldn’t think Oakland would move too far up the draft. Sooner or later, the team must stop mortgaging future picks, and I think new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie gets that. I’d expect him to suck it up and deal with what he has this year for the most part.
Will the Chiefs add a running back? There was early talk Kansas City could make a play for Alabama’s Trent Richardson, which could require a move up to No. 5. That may not be a likely scenario. However, the Chiefs could still take a running back in the early rounds. Jamaal Charles is coming off a torn ACL and Peyton Hillis signed a one-year deal. The Chiefs have been visiting with running backs, so I could see them taking one at some point.
Will the Chargers and Broncos take a running back early? There have been projections that both Denver and San Diego could take a running back as early as the second round. I’d think Denver is the more likely of the two teams to take a running back early. Boise State’s Doug Martin, Virginia Tech’s David Wilson, Miami’s Lamar Miller and Oregon’s LaMichael James are all possibilities.
Will A.J. Smith make a splash? The Chargers probably will have to make the playoffs for San Diego general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner to keep their jobs. The Chargers have been aggressive in free agency and they have always been aggressive in the draft. I could see the Chargers taking a chance and moving up for the right impact player.
Will Denver take a defensive tackle? The Broncos haven’t taken a defensive tackle since 1997 when they took Trevor Pryce. It is the team’s greatest need. However, if players such as LSU’s Michael Brockers and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox are gone by No. 25, Denver may opt for another position or trade down rather than reach for another defensive tackle prospect.
Will the Raiders be a draft factor? The Raiders only have five picks, but I think they can still get a couple of developmental players. It may be too much to ask for the Raiders to find instant impact players, but I think McKenzie will salvage this class.
Will the Chargers reach for their top need? The Chargers badly need an impact pass-rusher, but it isn’t a deep class. By the time the No. 18 picks rolls around, the top pass-rushing prospects -- South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram, North Carolina’s Quinton Coples and Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw -- all may be gone. The next level of players include Syracuse’s Chandler Jones, USC’s Nick Perry and Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus. Many scouts think taking those players at No. 18 may be too high. So, the Chargers could be on the move down if that scenario develops.
Will the Chiefs be swayed by Poe’s beauty? Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe is a high-risk, high-reward player. He has all the measurables and he has big potential. But he has unimpressive game tape against second-level competition. Many teams are leery of taking him. The Chiefs could use him, but with a recent history of taking under-achieving defensive linemen, can Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli take the risk?
Another Georgia Tech receiver in Denver? If the Broncos bypass a defensive tackle at No. 25, they could look to give Manning another weapon. A name to keep an eye on is Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill. The Broncos have been scouting him and they wouldn’t mind adding another former Georgia Tech receiver. Denver took Demaryius Thomas out of the school with the No. 22 pick in 2010.
Will Golden Domers head to the beach? Two players Smith likes a lot are Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd and safety Harrison Smith. Floyd could require a trade up and Smith could be a candidate via a trade down. Don’t be surprised if one of the two ends up a Charger.
Is Josh Chapman AFC West bound? One of the underrated players on a strong Alabama defense is versatile defensive tackle Josh Chapman, a fit for both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses. He has visited both the Raiders and the Chiefs and could be a target of any team in the division in the third round.
This week, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said he was completely open to this approach in the first round.
“We may pick, we may trade up if something is getting close to us that we can get and someone is trying to bail out at a ridiculous price that we can’t pass up and there’s a player that really is the apple of our eye, or move back if someone comes to us with something,” Pioli said in a pre-draft news conference. “I think it might be a little bit interesting this year while we’re sitting there as to what we want to do.”
I think there may be a limited group of players Kansas City would trade up for. I could see them moving up to the No. 7 range for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but I’m not convinced Kansas City would go up to the No. 3-4 range for the quarterback.
I’m not so sure there are any other prospects the Chiefs will make a big reach to get.
If the Chiefs stay at No. 11, they will focus on Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly or Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox has been rising up draft boards and he could possibly be on the Chiefs’ radar at No. 11. Cox was a better college performer than Poe. Pioli values game-film production.
Bailing out and sliding down five to 10 spots and picking up another quality pick is also feasible option. By dropping down, Kansas City would eye Stanford guard David DeCastro (he could be available in the No. 14-16 range) or even Alabama safety Mark Barron (he could also be available in the same spot) to pair with Eric Berry.
The Chiefs have a lot of options and I think they will be one of the most interesting teams to watch in the first half of the first round.
Timmy from San Jose wants to know if I think the Raiders can have an effective draft despite having five picks -- with the highest being No. 95.
Bill Williamson: There is no doubt the Raiders are not in a good position in this draft, particularly because they lack high picks. But I do think they can get a good player or two. In fact, I think they could actually have an advantage over other teams because they are focusing on mid-round talent. Other teams are heavily scouting top-100 picks, while the Raiders are scouring the second level players and may be better versed in those prospects.
Michael from Bozeman, Mont., wants to know if I think the Broncos could trade out of the No. 25 slot if a top defensive tackle is not available.
BW: If LSU’s Michael Brockers and Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox are off the board at No. 25, I think it is likely Denver would trade down to get another second round pick or a later first-round pick. Denver needs to find a defensive tackle early, but it also could use players at other spots, so I think a trade down is a real possibility.
Ed from Kenya wants to know if I think Stanford guard David DeCastro could end up being the No.11 pick by the Chiefs.
BW: I don’t think DeCastro is the Chiefs’ top option, but I do think he is on their list. They could drop down five spots and likely get him. I could see that scenario unfolding. He’d be a great fit for a strong offense.
Smith has made plenty of first-round picks made by that have been under the radar. Few expected him to take Illinois defensive end Corey Liuget last season or Northern Illinois pass-rusher Larry English in 2009.
Don’t be surprised if Smith springs another surprise this year with the Chargers' No. 18 pick.
A lot of people (myself included) think the Chargers will take a pass-rusher such as Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus, Syracuse’s Chandler Jones or USC’s Nick Perry or an offensive lineman such as Stanford’s David DeCastro or Georgia’s Cordy Glenn.
But I think it would be a mistake to simply think in such a limited scope.
If Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd is available, I could see him being the choice despite the heavy focus on receivers in free agency. Floyd is a special talent and the Chargers like him.
San Diego could also draft a cornerback such as Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick or South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore. Cornerback isn’t a major need area, but if the Chargers like a certain player there, a case could be made.
I know the Chargers like their inside linebackers, so maybe Smith will nab Alabama’s Dont'a Hightower. Why can’t an impact defender be a classic inside 3-4 linebacker?
What does this all mean?
We’re dealing with Smith and that means everything is on the table, pressing needs or not.
Here is one of the reasons why the Broncos’ greatest need is at defensive tackle. Denver had just four sacks from its interior defensive line, all from Ryan McBean, a free agent who is fighting a six-game NFL suspension. Of the 4-3 defenses in the NFL, only Seattle had fewer sacks from the defensive tackle position. It is a good thing the Broncos have a dynamic pass-rushing presence from Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
Here is a reason why the Chiefs should consider drafting Stanford’s David DeCastro and playing him at right guard. The Chiefs ran well to the left last season, but struggled running on the right side. They addressed the issue by signing right tackle Eric Winston, considered one of the best at his position. Adding DeCastro, considered one of the premier guard prospects in the past several years, would further help. Kansas City ranked seventh in the NFL running to the left in 2011, but was ranked 32nd up the middle and 31st to the right side.
Oakland cornerbacks had 27 pass disruptions or interceptions last season, which was tied for 21st in the NFL. Fifteen of those big plays came from Stanford Routt, who is now in Kansas City after being a salary-cap dump in Oakland. More cornerback talent may be necessary even though the Raiders signed projected starters Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer to one-year deals.
The Chargers rushed four or fewer defenders on 77.5 percent of opposing quarterback drop backs last season. It was the fifth highest in the NFL. However, only Antwan Barnes had success, with nine sacks. The Chargers desperately need another impact pass-rusher.
I think Mercilus is a player who fills a greater immediate need than DeCastro. However, DeCastro is a special talent who may be difficult for San Diego to pass up under the right circumstances. However, the Chargers do appear to be comfortable with the idea of with moving forward in the post-Kris Dielman era with Tyronne Green.
Merculis, if taken by San Diego, would immediately be given a chance to help a pass-rush that needs to be spruced up.
Here are McShay’s thoughts on Merculis: “He was relentless as a pass rusher, all over the place, flying around the field.
I don't think he's an elite athlete, but he certainly has the combination of size at 6-foot-3 1/2, 261 pounds, and the burst you look for to get after the quarterback.
Then you talk about the 16 sacks he had this past year, and nine forced fumbles. To me, that is one of the underrated statistics. I'm not a big stat guy, but I always look to see with these defensive ends, arm length, obviously sacks, and force fumbles … I think Whitney Mercilus has a chance to become an impact player at the next level. “
McShay on DeCastro: “He has a chance to be one of the elite guards, and right away. He's as ready as I think I've ever evaluated a player in terms of being ready to come in and play at a high level.
I wrote ‘balance’ down about 90 times when I was watching his tape. Everything's in balance and under control. He’s instinctive. He’s absolutely just nasty. Tough, physical, just plays with the temperament you're looking for. Competes, highly respected by his teammates, and just everything.
Again, he's the elite of the elite when it comes to guard. But I don't think the athleticism is there, I don’t think the length is there, and the arm length you look for in a tackle is there. I think you're making a mistake if you try to make him something he's not, rather than let him do what he does best and become a Pro Bowl level offensive guard.”
I wouldn’t be shocked if one of these two players is available at No. 18, so the Chargers could be in good shape either way.