Feb 27, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Memphis Tigers defensive lineman Dontari Poe does the shuttle run during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE

Kansas City Chiefs Nose Tackle Options

In case you missed it yesterday, Andrew Crocker put together some interesting and creative ideas about what the Chiefs could do with their #11 pick. I agree with much of what he had to say.  Among other things, without a doubt, NT and QB remain our two most pressing offseason needs. At this point, it does not appear that anything more will be done to address the QB situation which leaves us to consider what to do about that rather prominent hole in the heart of our defense?

The acquisition of Eric Winston, more than anything, provides the Chiefs with a nice bit of flexibility heading into the draft – never a bad thing.  The way things seem to be shaping up, we’ll go into the draft with Branden Abert, Ryan Lilja, Rodney Hudson, Jon Asamoah, and Eric Winston as our starting offensive line. While I’ve been as critical as anyone about the combination of Lilja and Wiegmann not getting it done in the running game, I nevertheless now feel pretty good about where things stand now with our offensive line, even with Lilja as our starting RG.  I would like, more than anything, to use this draft to add OL depth.

As promising as our OL situation now seems to be, the same really cannot be said about the state of our  defensive line. Resigning Amon Gordon was a necessary move but beyond that we’ve got both current and future problems that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.  For example, our current ability to defend in short yardage situations, particularly through the interior gaps, ranks near the bottom of the league according to Football Outsiders.  Considering Jerrell Powe came in for something like less than 10 snaps last season, I highly doubt he is anywhere close to being a significant consideration for the 2012 rotation.

Neither Glenn Dorsey nor Tyson Jackson have yet to wow anyone since being drafted. Moreover, twilight-of-their-career stop gaps such as Kelly Gregg have yet provide anything in the way of meaningful relief for our DL woes.  Assuming Dorsey and Jackson stick around for awhile (which is a big assumption considering the cost of their respective contracts), we still need to provide them with what most consider the centerpiece of a 34 defense before we can truly assess either . . . to wit, a quality nose tackle. Whether Dorsey and Jackson remain on as long term fixtures of the Chiefs defensive line is not as important as whether and how soon we really plug the gaping hole in the middle.  I feel that once that deficiency is properly addressed, we will see our defense undergo the transformation from that of “on-the-rise” to that of “arrived.”

For this reason, I am holding out hope that the Chiefs, either through free agency or through the draft this year, at long last secure the caliber of nose tackle that will put our defense into a position where they can considered to be among the league’s elite.  We now have all the pieces, save one.

All this leads up to the question of “what are our current options” for getting that kind of nose tackle? Let’s begin with free agency. Just because we missed out on Paul Soliai does not necessarily mean that viable options no longer exist on that front.

For me, four names stand out – Aubrayo Franklin, Shaun Rogers, Antonio Garay, and Samie Lee Hill.  Rogers will be 33 at the start of next season while Garay and Franklin will each be 32. Of these three, I like Franklin the best, but all, given their ages, should probably best be viewed as guys whose best years are behind them and thus stop gap solutions for the Chiefs. That leaves Samie Lee Hill, who at age 25, has some viable tread left on his tires.

Hill, at 25, is a 3 year veteran  and for me the most intriguing of the bunch.  He is a restricted free agent and considering the Lions seem to be pretty loaded with talented DTs, Detroit is probably looking to unload him for a draft pick. Even better, Hill comes as a guy that entered the NFL  just 3 years ago (and with that keep in mind that well worn cliché about learning curves for DTs) as a small school standout and has managed to develop into a pretty solid player who many feel still has additional upside. The biggest obstacle to Hill taking the next step is the fact that he currently plays second fiddle to Ndamukong Suh.

Okay Double D, that’s all well and fine but would a guy like this cost us? Well, how does a 4th round pick sound because that’s Detroit’s asking price? In case anyone’s worried about us losing a 4th round pick, here are a couple 4th round picks that ought to refresh your memory as to just how valuable they are to the Chiefs-  Donald Washington and Jalil Brown. In the 2010 draft, the Chiefs did not even have a 4th round pick, having traded it to Houston.

Although I’d probably be down with getting Aubrayo Franklin as a short term solution, my gut instinct is to do whatever it takes to make Sammie Lee Hill a Chief. And frankly “whatever it takes” is not gonna be all that much.

Next, let’s consider the draft for a minute. Each and every time the Chiefs have had an opportunity to get what appears to be a good Nose Tackle in the draft, I’ve been all over it. I strongly advocated taking BJ Raji with our #3 pick in 2009. I doubt I need to remind anyone here who we actually ended up with.  In the face of my advocacy of Raji, the objections on AA came fast and furious. Raji’s profile and draft stock was nitpicked to death on this blog and the popular sentiment seemed to be no way in hell he was worth the #3 pick and most likely a late 1st rounder at best, if that.

Raji, of course, made an immediate impact his rookie year and is widely regarded as one of the top 3 Nose Tackles in the league.

Next came Terrence (“Mount”) Cody. In Cody’s case, I did not advocate taking him in the first round but certainly felt at the time that he was worth our 2nd round “Tony Gonzalez” round pick that year.  That thought was also highly criticized and nit-picked on this very blog. Instead, we used our 2nd round picks on Dexter McCluster and Javier Arenas. Anyone who wouldn’t trade either of those picks for Terrence Cody right now ought to have their head examined.

Last year, for me, Phil Taylor was the guy we had to have.  That idea was once again nit-picked and lambasted by all the self-appointed draft experts on this blog. Instead, we traded away our #21 pick to Cleveland who in turn used it to take Taylor. The Chiefs ended up with leaving the 1st round of 2011 with a Wide Receiver who so far seems incapable of escaping the jam at the line. Taylor’s rookie campaign saw him step in as a starting DT for the Browns . . . of course!

Now comes this year’s draft and once again we may have the opportunity to take an outstanding specimen of a Nose Tackle with our #11 pick. Mind you, this is a guy that just about every major and minor sports media outlet has on their big board lying somewhere between 10th and 20th best player of the draft overall. Check out just about any mock draft, and the consensus seems to be that he’ll either go the Panthers at #9, the Chiefs at #11, or the Eagles at #15.  I am of course referring to Combine standout Dontari Poe.

And invariably the nit-picking of this early round NT option has begun here at AA.  We’ve all heard them – workout warrior (as if that’s an automatic basis for disqualification), takes plays off (name one NFL DT/NT who doesn’t – there is a no more physically demanding job in the NFL), lack of awards and stats (did Memphis’ scheme put him in a position to rack up gawdy stats and accolades? Not really), blah, blah, blah. I’ll tell you this much – every opposing coach that faced Memphis has stated in no uncertain terms that they definitely had to scheme for Poe. Has it ever occurred to any of Poe’s detractors that maybe, just maybe, there wasn’t any real talent around Poe and as a result, he ended up getting all the attention? Just a thought.

Look, I’m gonna keep this as simple as possible. Poe is high on everyone’s draft boards because his size, his strength, his feet, all dictate that he looks to make a major impact in the NFL. Nevertheless, some suggest that the only reason he’s a first rounder is because of his combine performance. Not true. Going into the combine, Poe was just about everyone’s consensus favorite as the best NT of this year’s draft and generally regarded as 1st rounder anyway. His combine performance merely confirmed what most everyone already suspected – he is indeed a beast.

Now do I think Poe is flawless? Hell no! Just like ANY 1st round pick, Poe has the potential to be a bust. I believe what Poe needs more than anything to really excel in the NFL is better technique. Technique is something that can be taught. Last I checked, Romeo Crennel still coaches for the Chiefs.

Are there other options in the draft? Yes, but none which I believe have the potential to make as huge or as immediate of an impact as Dontari Poe. For example, some say we should roll the dice with Alameda Ta’amu in the 2nd round. Based on, among other things, how Ta’amu was thoroughly manhandled by Phillip Blake (currently projected as a 3rd or 4th round Center), I just don’ t see it. Every time he faced top level offenses, like, say Stanford’s, Ta’amu disappeared. Truth be know, Ta’amu will face a lot of top level offenses in the NFL.

There’s a couple other guys, late rounders, in the draft who pique my interest some but those are guys who have to be considered development projects. The Chiefs simply don’t have the luxury to develop a nose tackle and besides that’s kind why we took Jerrell Powe in the 6th round anyway. In other words, we already kind of have that spot filled.

Let’s recap.

With Branden Albert, veteran guard Ryan Lilja, the addition of Eric Winston and the ongoing development of Hudson and Asamoah, the Chiefs offensive line is actually in pretty good shape right now. While a guy like DeCastro would probably make our OL that much better, our needs on the OL are nowhere near as pressing as those on the DL and it’s chronic inability to stuff the run and/or collapse the pocket.

If we go the free agency route, Sammie Lee Hill is the one guy I would have wearing Red and Yellow next season. His cost would be insignificant. With Hill set to wear a Chiefs uni, I would have zero qualms about taking David DeCastro with our #11 pick. I also wouldn’t have to worry about Carolina taking Poe ahead of us in the draft.

If Pioli fails to address our glaring hole at NT in some meaningful way through free agency, I think the ONLY option we have is to take Dontari Poe, assuming Carolina has not already done so. Poe, by all accounts, possesses all the physical requirements and all the upside one could ask for – he just needs the right coach and the right situation. Dontari Poe would find both in KC and our defense would prosper greatly from his presence.

That’s my Double Take Addicts.

How would you like to see the Chiefs address the need at Nose Tackle this offseason?

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