KCCD Editor: Jason Madson
It’s been nearly 30 years since the Kansas City Chiefs selected an interior defensive lineman in the NFL Draft that worked out. Bill Maas, selected in the 1984 Draft was the last Chiefs pick to make an impact on the inside for the Chiefs. Sure, KC has had luck signing free agents, but most of the free agent pickups have been at the end of their careers. Selections in the Draft like Ryan Sims, Junior Siavii, Eddie Freeman and Alex Magee have put a sour taste in the fans mouths.
Enter Dontari Poe. He is the latest attempt at a “savior” in the middle of the defensive line for the Chiefs. The pick was questioned by most in the area. Fans complained immediately following the pick, either about trading down or selecting another player. But Romeo Crennel and Scott Pioli saw something in the massive prospect, who was a standout at the combine. He’s a project, without question, but how far away is Poe from being a big time contributor in Kansas City?
That’s a difficult question to answer, but if anybody would know, it’s Maas. He was the 5th overall pick out of Pitt in the 1984 NFL Draft. Bill played defensive end in college, and was an All-American in 1982. He talked about the position change:
“I played defensive end at Pitt and hated the thought of playing nose tackle. I had to make myself get mentally prepared to become successful at playing that position in the NFL. 3 a days in training camp in full pads certainly helped me get enough practice at the new position.”
Maas explained the toughest part of the position and gave some advice to the rookie:
“ I was so focused on playing the new position against new competition every week that I didn’t think about the pressure of being drafted number 1. I was more concerned about who I had to play the next game. Although I was playing a new position, the scheme let me play it very aggressively. It wasn’t until Marty got here that I had to endure the hardest learning curve. It is the same style that Poe has to learn and that is reading the center. It takes time.”
The great thing about Poe’s situation is that the Chiefs have just that, time. He can learn to play the nose tackle position, while contributing early on in other situations. He’s part of the front 2 in a sub package pass rushing role. He has shown flashes of collapsing the pocket in camp and in the preseason games. But the main thing is getting better at the nose:
“I would tell him, although it may be tough to do, you can become very good at doing it. He has the tools in his size, quick feet and lower body strength. Once he learns how to use his hands and get extension, he will become a big factor in this defense.”
Poe is a very studious player and a hard worker. He worked with DL coach Anthony Pleasant every practice on exactly what Maas mentioned. He would work on his punch, explosion and keeping a strong base. He continues to work and it will come, according to Maas.
In Bill’s first game as a Chief he was a starter.
“The Chiefs threw me right in the fire week 1 against Mike Webster.”
Facing a future Hall of Famer on your first regular season snap is a tall order, but Maas proved his worth. He earned Rookie of the Year in 1984 and was an All-Pro and Pro Bowler in the 1986 and 1987 seasons. Chiefs fans would take that type of production from Poe if it were offered.