The first draft pick of the Romeo Crennel era is one that aligns with the head coach’s expertise.
Chiefs GM Scott Pioli has found success drafting defensive linemen and then turning them over to Crennel for development. It’s a blueprint that helped produce both Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork in New England.
It’s also a pairing the Chiefs are relying on to mold Dontari Poe into the heart of the team’s defensive line.
In addition to Crennel, Poe will benefit from having former NFL defensive lineman Anthony Pleasant as his position coach. Pleasant played five seasons under Crennel with the Jets and Patriots in the defensive scheme Kansas City currently employs.
“If we pick the right defensive lineman physically and emotionally, make-up wise, I think our coaching staff does a tremendous job of developing football players,” Pioli said.
“That’s what we get paid for – to coach,” Crennel added. “So, we’re going to do a really good job. Anthony Pleasant does a good job with the linemen that we have and our scheme. We’re excited about (Poe) being here.”
Poe’s measurables are ideal. His potential goes unmatched. He possesses the perfect interior body for Kansas City’s 3-4 defense and is a player the Chiefs believe to be the best pure nose tackle in this year’s draft.
On the other hand, Poe is widely-regarded as one of the biggest enigmas of the 2012 draft class.
The combine freak ran a sub-4.9 second 40-yard dash at 346 pounds and bench pressed 225 pounds a whopping 44 times, but left behind a stat line of underwhelming college production for a poor Memphis football program.
Memphis went 5-31 the past three years while Poe earned second-team Conference USA honors last season.
“He played every down at 350 pounds and he played every position on the line in every game,” Crennel explained. “He’s playing a nine-technique, he’s playing a seven-technique, a five-technique, a three-technique, a one-technique, a two-technique and head up on the nose sometimes.
“He’s the jack-of-all-trades. It’s hard to be good at any one thing when you’re doing all of those things.”
Poe also played under three different defensive coordinators in three seasons for the Tigers. He posted only 33 tackles and just one sack last year in a scheme that didn’t appear to suit him.
“He wasn’t able to quite have the kind of production that everybody wants him to have right away,” said Crennel. “But I think that when we get him in here and we settle him down and get him in one spot, then we’ll see this guy improve and he’s going to be productive, and he’s going to be a good player.”
The Chiefs will line Poe in a zero-technique over center in the team’s base defense. But Poe’s experience playing multiple fronts has Kansas City encouraged that he can become a three-down player appearing in sub-package sets as well.
Powe, a sixth-round pick in 2011, played just seven snaps as a rookie and Toribio spent all of last season on the team’s practice squad. Kelly Gregg turned 35 years old last season and played in all 16 games, but is currently an unrestricted free agent.
Poe was rated as the team’s top nose tackle prospect prior to posting eye-popping results at the NFL Combine in February. If anything, his performance in Indianapolis forced the Chiefs to re-evaluate their grade.
Combine hype followed Poe in full effect. He was this year’s “workout warrior” and Kansas City needed to confirm what they believed prior to the Scouting Combine.
Pioli and the college scouting staff re-watched all of Poe’s game film and charted every snap he appeared in last season.
On Poe’s rookie visit, Crennel tested the player’s mental makeup.
“I sat right here and I looked him right in the eye and asked, ‘You know what kind of defense we play?’” Crennel recalled. “I said that we’re going to be head up on them and you’re going to get double-teamed and all those kind of good things, but if you just make the plays you’re supposed to make, you’ll make plenty of plays.”
Poe left his visit uncertain if he’d ever return, but knew where he wanted to be. Kansas City had a structure in place with a history of allowing defensive lineman to succeed.
“He's a defensive genius,” Poe said of Crennel. “I think he's a D‑line coach at heart, and just learning from him and just doing whatever I can to make him proud in a sense and just be the best that I can be, I'm very excited for it.
“It was a best‑case scenario. You can never know what's going to happen in these drafts, so luckily for me, this was the place I wanted to be.”