Now that the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021 draft process is complete, it’s time to start evaluating how each player fits into the team’s scheme, how they’ll factor into the 2021 depth chart and how they project to contribute in the long term. I finish my breakdown of the draft class with 2021’s 226th overall selection: Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith.
During his final two seasons, Smith started at left guard for Tennessee — earning first-team All-SEC honors in both years and becoming a second-team All-American in 2020. However, he started his college career as a left tackle, playing there as a true freshman — and before his blood clot issue took him off the field, for the first seven games of his sophomore season, too.
Smith is not what we would consider a typical Chiefs interior offensive lineman. On the inside, we’ve historically seen the team use lighter players with more movement skills. So there may be a shift in philosophy happening right in front of our eyes — one that may have started when the team started Kelechi Osemele last year.
If you liked the Osemele’s power — and his ability to move people — then you’re going to love Smith.
Trey Smith (LG #73) is a big man, and plays like it. Strong, powerful hands; gets his weight behind him and moves people. Loves to finish blocks into the ground if he can pic.twitter.com/PuddFuSmo7— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 18, 2021
Smith uses a nice, wide base — along with really strong hands — to grasp defenders and control their paths. He also has that nasty streak we all love to see in offensive linemen: he wants to finish every block with the defender on the turf. At the end of plays, he’s constantly giving that extra shove to finish the block.
And in pass protection, Smith has been a brick wall. There haven’t been many interior defenders who have had having success getting past him.
In pass-protection, Smith uses those same strong hands to stalemate defenders and has quick feet to slide off one DL and help his teammate with another. Seems to always be aware of stunts, and sometimes blocks both stunting guys pic.twitter.com/PmXfVG1mP9— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 18, 2021
While countering pass-rushers’ swim and rip moves, his hand usage looks good. His quick feet allow him to shuffle side-to-side when he needs to pick up stunts. Not only does he stalemate defenders, he is also aware of his teammates who need help.
In run blocking, you see him lose balance every once in a while, losing his feet while lunging to make big impacts. In those situations, you’d like to see him keep his base — to bring his feet to the block, instead of losing his center of gravity by getting ahead of himself.
Those struggles may have to do with his pads sometimes being too high. Smith doesn’t always out-leverage defensive linemen; he sometimes relies too much on his raw strength and power.
So while he has technical problems he needs to work out, he recognizes that Kansas City is a great place for him to solve them; he’ll be surrounded by veterans who can help him.
How he factors into the 2021 depth chart
The Chiefs have loaded their offensive line with talented players who are capable of starting — and Smith should be considered one of them. He has been one of the best offensive lineman in a college conference that routinely develops NFL players — and he was a five-star high school recruit for a reason.
Smith can be considered at either guard position — but with Joe Thuney penciled in at left guard, Smith likely needs to focus at right guard if he wants to play in 2021. He’ll be competing with players who didn’t play football last year — Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, Kyle Long and Lucas Niang (if he doesn’t play right tackle) — as well as experienced players like Austin Blythe, Andrew Wylie, Martinas Rankin or potentially Mike Remmers.
That’s a lot of names — but from a talent perspective, are any of them truly head-and-shoulders better than Smith? Once the pads come on in training camp, it should be a very tight competition — and Smith has the talent to be firmly in the mix.
It’s worth mentioning that The Athletic’s offensive line expert Brandon Thorn wouldn’t rule Smith out at another position.
My best guess would be Creed-Long for C-RG with RT being the most interesting. I wouldn’t rule out Smith— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) May 2, 2021
The exciting part about the offensive line the Chiefs have now assembled is the clear potential for long-term continuity. Left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. will likely be extended within the next two seasons, left guard Joe Thuney is under contract for four seasons, center Creed Humphrey is under contract for four seasons, and potential right tackle Lucas Niang’s four-year rookie contract begins this season.
Smith is also signed for the next four seasons. Even if he spends his rookie season as valuable depth, he can eventually earn that right guard position and completely solidify the five starting positions through at least 2024.
Yes... Smith was a sixth-round pick — but it’s hard not have high expectations for his talent, and you can tell he sets a high bar for himself. As long as his medical history remains a thing of the past, Smith looks like a future starter on this offensive line — especially if the Chiefs are transitioning to a more traditional, power-run scheme.