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Chiefs rookie breakdown: Trey Smith

The last selection of the Chiefs’ 2021 draft class rounds out a talented offensive line unit.

NCAA Football: Tennessee at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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.


Team fit

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.

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.

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

Tennessee vs Auburn Photo by Andrew Ferguson/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

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.

Long-term outlook

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 26 South Carolina at Tennessee Photo by Bryan Lynn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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.