2022 Chiefs Preview: Will This All-SEC Rookie Earn A Starting Role?

August 1, 2022

As the Chiefs look ahead to 2022, one of the biggest camp battles exists at the right-tackle position. Will this 2022 rookie make their mark and earn a starting role this season?

Monday marks an important day in Training Camp for the Chiefs. It’s the first day that the team will practice with pads. It’s also reportedly the first day that left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. will report to camp and join the team. He’s signed his franchise tender and is ready to go.

With Brown in camp and preparing for the season, one of the team’s biggest question marks along the offensive line is answered. Four of the five offensive line positions seem to be squared away with Brown, Joe Thuney, Creed Humphrey, and Trey Smith. With that ironed out, the team can now apply their focus to the right tackle position.

Right Tackle has been in limbo since the injury to Mitchell Schwartz that eventually led to his release from the team and subsequent retirement. Last year, we saw Lucas Niang and Andrew Wylie play the most snaps at the position for the Chiefs. Both of those players figure to factor in again this season but a couple of other options are looking to stake their claim to playing time in 2022.

2022 Chiefs Rookie Is Poised To Make His Mark In Training Camp

Lucas Niang, who started last season as the Chiefs’ starting right tackle, has been placed on the PUP list to start training camp. This certainly won’t help his case moving forward to become an impactful member of the offensive line. Niang was a third-round pick in 2020 and there was a hope that he would become an effective long-term solution along the offensive line.

Instead, last season we saw Niang lose his starting role to Andrew Wylie due to poor performance on the field. He eventually suffered an injury that sidelined him for much of the season. With Niang sidelined, it’s possible that Andrew Wylie again takes the right tackle spot. However, a 2022 rookie in Chiefs camp could stake his own claim to snaps.

A 2022 fifth-round pick, Darian Kinnard, is looking to earn his place as a starter along the offensive line. Kinnard is 22 years old and comes in 6-foot-5 and 345 pounds. He played three seasons at the University of Kentucky where he was twice a First-Team All-SEC tackle. Kinnard was also a consensus All-American in 2021 and won the SEC’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2021. What shouldn’t be lost when discussing Kinnard is the fact that Kansas City actually traded up in the draft to select him. They sent picks 158 and 233 to Seattle to acquire pick 145 and select Kinnard.

Clearly, Kansas City likes what they see in their new offensive lineman. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com graded Kinnard as a third-round draft prospect in his Draft Profile. Despite his tools, Zierlein expects a move inside to benefit the young offensive lineman:

“Three-year starter at right tackle with a right guard projection, Kinnard possesses a frame that is very girthy but well proportioned. He’s not a bad athlete but faces limitations with lateral and recovery movements. A transition inside should allow for more advantageous positioning as both a drive blocker and in pass protection. Kinnard is an all-day mauler relying heavily upon a nasty demeanor and physical advantages to overwhelm opponents. However, he could see a substantial downturn in success rate at the pro level unless he spends more time and energy improving his hand usage, footwork and overall technique.”

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com

Although it’s unclear whether a move inside is truly in the cards — or necessary for Kinnard to succeed — he should be a valuable addition to the offensive line whether he’s added depth behind Thuney and Smith or a starting tackle on the outside. When diving into his ability on the field, it seems more and more likely that the Chiefs may in fact keep him on the outside and treat him as the starting right tackle in his rookie season. After all, last season they had no problem entering the year with three rookies along the offensive line. Two of those rookies worked out very well.

Kinnard can use his size and arms as leverage against NFL-level edge rushers. In the clip above, he’s squaring up against first-round edge rusher Jermaine Johnson at the Senior Bowl. Johnson can’t even gain a step on Kinnard and walks away extremely frustrated with the rep. In-game action shows some impressive tools from Kinnard as well. He draws a lot of similarities to Trey Smith, in that he’s an absolute mauler along the offensive line.

Kinnard is vicious at the point of attack and downright unrelenting in his pursuit of defenders. It’s not uncommon to see him ten yards downfield driving defenders into the turf. Remind anyone of Trey Smith from last season? His speed as a “big man” is rather deceptive and that mix of speed, strength, and aggressiveness should suit him well as a tackle at the next level.

He can certainly get beat on the outside at times. As Zierlein mentioned in his Draft Profile, “he could see a substantial downturn in success rate at the pro level unless he spends more time and energy improving his hand usage, footwork, and overall technique.” Some of those concerns with footwork and technique showed themselves above in a lost rep against Jermaine Johnson. The footwork certainly needs refinement for Kinnard to land as a right tackle against NFL talent.

Above, he digs in and tries to plant his feet. Instead of planting wide, his left leg stays too far inside and not square with the rushing Johnson. His hands land too far outside and erase all possible leverage at the point of attack. The result is Kinnard trying to stop the blitzing defender on one foot with no vertical leverage.

In the AFC West, where he will face off against the likes of Joey Bosa and Maxx Crosby, refinement of those skills becomes even more important. The West is stacked with Edge Rushers and Kinnard will need to cement his place as the team’s right tackle now in camp. If he can show the ability and refine his footwork, he certainly has the profile you’d like to see out of an NFL Right Tackle.

Kinnard is a name to watch as camp progresses and it seems like it’ll be a competition between Kinnard, Wylie, and Roderick Johnson for the fifth offensive line position.


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