KANSAS CITY – The Chiefs dramatically and effectively improved their offensive line in 2021, but that didn’t stop them from adding to the position group in 2022 with the selection of Darian Kinnard in the fifth round of the draft.
Opinions concerning Kinnard’s NFL future as a tackle or guard were mixed coming into the draft. Kinnard played right tackle throughout his career at Kentucky, but many scouts and evaluators saw a healthy transition to guard in the NFL.
It makes sense for Kinnard to play tackle in the NFL considering he has the required length to do so. He also started at right tackle for 37 games at Kentucky and was named a Consensus All-American in 2021.
In other words: He was one of the nation’s best tackles despite going up against top-notch SEC talent on a weekly basis. If Kinnard has both the traits and the production, then it wouldn’t make much sense to play him at a different position. Meaning, tackle is the likely position.
But now that Kinnard is a member of the Chiefs, it only matters what general manager Brett Veach, head coach Andy Reid, and offensive line coach Andy Heck think is best for Kinnard.
And Veach confirmed the suspicion that Kinnard would stick at tackle on Tuesday when spoke with reporters via Zoom.
“That was our plan when we drafted him,” Veach told reporters when asked if Kinnard will play tackle. “There’s been a lot of talk: ‘Is he a tackle? Is he a guard?’ I think we feel confident that he can play guard, but you’re talking about a guy who logged a ton of starts at right tackle.”
Veach went on to mention how Kinnard’s collegiate pedigree went into the evaluation and how it played into the Chiefs’ post-draft decision.
“I think any time that you can go in and play right tackle successfully at the SEC level,” said Veach. “More often than not, that’ll translate to the pro level. Now, it’ll be a jump — just like all of these colleges are when you’re moving up to the NFL -it’s not like it’s going to be easier- but I think that [is] one conference that gives you a sense of hope and a sense of encouragement. I think we all saw that Georgia defensive line last year. If you can line up and play against defensive fronts of that caliber, you’re going to have a shot.”
There’s another reason the Chiefs are planning to keep Kinnard at tackle: Lucas Niang’s torn patellar he suffered in 2021.
Veach said a couple weeks ago that Niang should be ready by the end of training camp. Kinnard not only provides a backup plan in case Niang isn’t ready or has a setback, but he could potentially fill the void -or at least compete to do so- until Niang is ready to come back.
3 days ago, Lucas Niang had a progress MRI.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) April 22, 2022
“Everything was where it needs to be,” said #Chiefs GM Brett Veach
Head trainer and VP Rick Burkholder said Niang is right on schedule. Could be ready by the end of training camp.
It will be interesting to see how everything plays out when it comes to Kinnard’s rookie season, but one thing is for sure: whatever happens, it will come from the tackle position.
Featured image via Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports