DeMarcus Ware. Dwight Freeney. Ben Roethlisberger. Patrick Willis. Twenty Pro Bowls and fourteen All-Pro selections have come from those four players taken with the eleventh overall selection in the NFL Draft. When you pick this high, you aren’t looking for depth; you’re looking for impact. Immediate impact.
So, much will be expected from freakishly big, freakishly fast defensive tackle Dontari Poe from Memphis. More than he has ever shown on a football field. Some guys wow you with their game tape. Others wow you with their stat sheet. Poe does neither, which is rare for a player chosen as high as he was.
His wow factor came entirely at the NFL Combine where he threw up 225 pounds 44 times and ran a 4.9 40-yard dash, a number that would make some linebackers and tight ends happy. So, he is an amazing physical specimen. But can he play football at a high level? No one really knows and I mean no one. Not Scott Pioli. Not Romeo Crennel. Not Dontari Poe.
Those who get paid the most to make those judgments believe he can. But they are merely projecting Poe’s massive physical talents onto the canvas of good coaching and hoping that the result is a masterpiece. Or, at least, something worth hanging on the wall.
There is a belief by his supporters both at Memphis and at One Arrowhead Drive that his college production was limited by his usage at Memphis. But they come at it from completely different angles. Those around the Tigers’ program say he wasn’t given a chance to use his athleticism. The Chiefs’ brass suggests that Memphis coaches over-utilized his talents, moving him around too much. They believe that he’ll be better playing in just one spot, which, it appears, will be head-up on the center at the outset.
Now, don’t misunderstand me; I like the pick and I understand why it was made. The Chiefs clearly identified the position as one where they needed a difference-maker. They took Poe, so it’s safe to say that they at least considered Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox. They wouldn’t comment on the differences between the two so we’re left to speculate and I think that they felt that Poe, whatever his faults might be, has a better chance of being a game-changer than does Cox, whose ceiling isn’t as high.
Fans always complain when their team makes the safe pick. They groan that the team isn’t trying hard enough to win, that they should take a chance every once in a while. Then, when their team takes a chance, they complain that the move was too risky, that the player could be a bust. The Chiefs went for it Thursday night. It might not work but it was a move with one clear goal: To win a championship.
I’m okay with that.
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