When Roger Goodell announced the selection of Dontari Poe by the Kansas City Chiefs, the crowd present at the watching party in the team's practice facility responded with a chorus of boos.
It wasn't without good cause; all fans had heard throughout the draft coverage were reasons for teams to stay away from Poe. Underachieving, workout warrior, unproductive in a less than impressive conference—all the negative buzzwords draft analysts tossed around were directed towards Poe. So after all that criticism, why shouldn’t Chiefs fans think they have the next Ryan Sims or Junior Siavii?
What Chiefs fans need to realize is the selection of Poe is already a success.
First, Poe has landed in the best possible place for him to flourish in the NFL. Romeo Crennel has a long history of getting the most out of defensive linemen. From Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork in New England to Shaun Rogers in Cleveland, it seems outstanding defensive linemen spring up wherever Crennel goes.
This pattern was most apparent in Kansas City in 2010, where the emergence of Shaun Smith and Wallace Gilberry as major contributors showed the prowess of Crennel’s coaching abilities with journeymen players. Give him a superior physical talent like Poe to work with, and the result could be something special.
Even with the outstanding coaching Poe is going to receive, it’s highly unlikely he is instantly going to have a Haloti Ngata-like impact in his first year. But the beauty of the situation he has found himself in with Kansas City is that he doesn’t have to.
Even if Poe is only slightly better than average at commanding double teams and rushing the passer because of his pure physical ability, he will have already succeeded in making the Chiefs defense a better overall unit.
Kansas City had been making do with journeymen noseguards thus far in the Scott Pioli era, and the Chiefs defense has been steadily improving with aging stop-gaps like Smith, Ron Edwards and Kelly Gregg. If Poe lives up to his enormous potential, he could be the final piece to an elite defense.
Will the addition of Dontari Poe make the Chiefs an elite defense?
The most telling indicator of his impact, however, will be his effect on the linebackers behind him.
Derrick Johnson, Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are a ferocious trio no matter what noseguard is in front of them, but the fourth linebacker in that group will benefit the most from having the Memphis Monster in front of him.
Whether it’s Jovan Belcher or Brandon Siler that wins the inside linebacker job opposite Johnson, Poe will keep blockers from getting to the linebackers. That will leave Belcher or Siler free to engage a fullback on running plays, or ideally reach a halfback untouched. If Belcher or Siler has a resurgent year in 2012, Poe will be deserving of much of the credit, and the Chiefs defense will be a stalwart against the run.
Much is expected of Poe in his tenure in Kansas City. If the Chiefs want a dominant defense, they need him to be the next Vince Wilfork. If he can improve throughout the season and be the best noseguard they have had in the last four years, he will already have been a success.