How Kansas City Used the Draft to Become a Contender in Just Ten Days

By Jake Saltzman

I’m still searching, but I’ve yet to come across an analyst who gives the Kansas City Chiefs anything higher than a B grade in April’s draft. That may not sound strange, but considering the number of “expert” opinions out there, you would think somebody would be a big enough Dontari Poe believer to give the Chiefs, at the very least, a B+.

Such is not the case, however, at least not yet. Taken at 11th overall by the Chiefs, Poe did not have the stellar college career required to make everybody believe he warranted a top-15 selection. He also played at Memphis in Conference USA, point out some draft evaluators, hardly a college-conference pairing like Alabama-SEC, or Purdue-Big Ten for example. Other analysts look at the fact that Poe recorded only a single sack last season, on a team that went only 2-10 with losses to schools such as Rice and UAB.

The problem with this set of arguments is that if Conference USA isn’t a competitive enough league, how should a 2-10 record differ from an 11-1 record? Kellen Moore went a remarkable 50-3 at Boise State, but because the level of competition in the WAC and Mountain West was not up to par with the SEC, Big Ten or even Pac 12, all 32 teams passed on Moore in the draft.

The difference between Moore and Poe is of course potential, or rather, POEtential. At just 5’10, Moore is widely believed to be too short to succeed in the NFL. Poe on the other hand is 6’3 and 346, large even by nose tackle standards. Combine that size with good coaching, and Poe would appear destined for seven or eight sacks automatically.

It takes more than just one player to make a draft class successful however, and it is for that reason that the Chiefs’ draft deserves more credit than it has yet been given. Here are five reasons why the Chiefs could contend for a division title in 2012, based solely upon their draft week.

1: Romeo Crennel provides the Yin, Dontari Poe the Yang.

It’s hard to think of anybody better than Romeo Crennel when the task at hand is developing solid NFL defenders, especially on the defensive line. A defensive genius, Crennel has over 25 years of NFL coaching experience, multiple Super Bowl titles, and has coached alongside the likes of Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick and Charlie Weis in his career. The Chiefs played their best football of the season when Crennel took over after week 14, and in week 15 handed the Packers their only loss of the regular season. Equally telling is the fact that the Chiefs defense gave up only 33 points combined in their final three games of 2011 under Crennel, after giving up over 30 in five of the prior 13 in which Todd Haley roamed the KC sideline. Crennel already knows what he has in defensive end Tamba Hali (12 sacks in 2011), and is certainly capable of turning Poe and Hali into a formidable duo before the season even starts.

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