How the Chiefs 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.

2: WR Devon Wylie is the closest thing to Wes Welker other than Wes Welker.

Devon Wylie isn’t Wes Welker, and to expect him to be, especially in his rookie season, is preposterous. But the Chiefs did get a pro with their fourth round pick out of Fresno State, exactly what they need to compliment Dwayne Bowe at receiver. With Peyton Hillis and Jamaal Charles both healthy at running back, if Matt Cassel struggles it is quite possible the Chiefs still get to .500 in a weak division. On the other hand, if Cassel surprises, the Chiefs could potentially win ten games in 2012. Supposing the Chiefs offense wasn’t plagued by injuries last season, and Charles and Cassel were active for all 16 games, the Chiefs would have been major contenders rather than living longshots entering week 17, in a division whose winner didn’t even have a winning record. This season, with health restored and Wylie in the mix, Kansas City not only has a run game and deep threat, but the one thing it lacked aside from injuries last season; a slot receiver who excels over the middle. Wylie had 56 catches for Fresno St. last season, and finished his career with 16 touchdowns from scrimmage. Eight of those came on the ground. Last year’s addition of Jonathan Baldwin proves the Chiefs love versatile offensive weapons, and Wylie is just that. Like a young Wes Welker, Wylie also figures to compete for time at returner this season.

3: Three starters in three rounds.

Aside from Poe, the Chiefs picked up two more potential starters with their first three selections, both at offensive tackle. Taken in rounds two and three respectively, Jeff Allen and Donald Stephenson could become the immediate heirs to the spots left vacant by the departures of Barry Richardson and Casey Wiegmann. Richardson and Wiegmann both started every game for the Chiefs last season, but despite that don’t fit into Crennel’s plans moving forward. Wiegmann in particular will turn 39 this summer, making him one of the oldest starting offensive linemen in the game. Allen and Stephenson will both start for the Chiefs at some point in the near future, but second year center Rodney Hudson will get a shot at Wiegmann’s spot before that happens.

4: Local talent and team needs were both covered in free agency.

Another weapon that can’t be overlooked for the Chiefs is tight end Tony Moeaki, who missed all of last season with an injury. While Moeaki returns however, last year’s replacement, Leonard Pope, signed with the Steelers in March. That opens up a spot at tight end that the Chiefs have looked to fill via free agency with Kevin Boss, but may very well continue to resolve with Tim Biere, an undrafted rookie from nearby University of Kansas. The Chiefs were neat to grab a couple local prospects in free agency, and Biere averaged over 12 yards per catch in college and very well could have been the lone Jayhawk to hear his name called two weeks ago. That aside, Biere is an upgrade over Jake O’Connell, the third tight end currently on Kansas City’s roster, but needs to become a better blocker. Additionally, former Kansas State Wildcat Tysyn Hartman has excellent size for a defensive back, but will have to beat out fellow undrafted signee Jean Fanor of Bethune-Cookman for a permanent spot in Crennel’s DB rotation.

5: Seventh round DT Jerome Long brings the sacks Poe didn’t in college.

Jerome Long is not what I would call a sack machine, but he did come out strong last season with four sacks in San Diego State’s first six games. If Crennel employs Long on select packages, there is no reason to believe he won’t duplicate or improve upon that statistic for the Chiefs. The Chiefs do have a plethora of D-Linemen however, including second-year man Allen Bailey, whose play in the Chiefs game against Miami last season helped KC avoid a shutout.


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