The makeover of the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line last offseason can easily be looked at as a success. In one offseason, they brought in four starters that appear to be in the mix long-term; left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. is negotiating an extension this offseason.
The fifth spot is right tackle, where time was split last season: Andrew Wylie led the team with 52% of the snaps between the regular season and playoffs, while Lucas Niang played only 37% of the snaps — less due to injury; Mike Remmers filled in for 11% of the snaps, but he is not returning for 2022.
It’s why they sprung on the opportunity to trade back and draft Kentucky right tackle Darian Kinnard with the extra pick in the fifth round (145th overall in this year’s draft). When general manager Brett Veach made the call to Kinnard, he made it clear that position was on their mind throughout the weekend.
“We had one more checkbox that we needed to fill out here before this draft ended, and it was right tackle. So now you get to come a great organization with a great offense and you can help us protect Patrick Mahomes, alright?”
Typically, a fifth-round pick shouldn’t have immediate-starter expectations, but similar to Trey Smith last year, this isn’t your typical, late-round addition to the depth of the roster. I looked into his college film to prove he can compete for starting snaps from the get-go:
College film evaluation
After splitting time between left and right tackle as a true freshman at Kentucky, Kinnard started at right tackle for his last three seasons — playing 2,223 snaps at the position over that time. He allowed only four quarterback hits and three sacks over his junior and senior seasons, per PFF.
Kinnard's massive size and huge hands were his most utilized weapons starting at RT for 3 seasons -- swallowing up edge rushers with the 11.25" paws pic.twitter.com/XGBjmbHyIr— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 8, 2022
The first thing you notice about Kinnard is how powerful and strong his hands are when he latches onto a defender and wins the initial battle to the chest. He will completely control a player, especially if they aren’t a heavier-set edge defender. It makes sense when you look at his measured hand size: 11.25 inches — in the 98th percentile historically for offensive tackles.
He’s strong enough to stop the momentum of a pass rusher even if his lower body isn’t in the best spot for leverage. His arms can swallow up those lighter rushers, neutralizing swim and rip moves because they simply aren’t strong enough to create separation from Kinnard.
Kinnard does need more refinement in his pass set. It's often that his hands are too far out in front of his hips, which prevents him from using the power in his lower half OR move direction to react to a counter move pic.twitter.com/ylmis8d433— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 8, 2022
The outside speed rush can get him like it can any taller, larger offensive tackle, simply because it’s hard to have quick enough feet to move that large of a body backward. At times, that understood limitation forces him to overcompensate — which can lead to off-balance hand usage and oversetting, which allows for success on inside counter moves.
Kinnard can also naturally play too high, similar to Orlando Brown Jr. Just being too massive of a human, his stance starts out high because of his size— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 8, 2022
It leads to high hands when trying to dig out a rusher around the edge, which can draw a flag pic.twitter.com/wc1yfXoP2U
He does play from a higher stance and higher center of gravity than you’d like, which can lead to high hands when trying to keep up with a rusher around his edge. Those draw flags, which can be drive killers.
The overall power and control in blocks translates to the run game, where he down blocks and widens the run lane or latches onto a defender and erase them from the play pic.twitter.com/VMu5kw6UcB— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 8, 2022
When a run play is called, defenders don’t want to be in the way of Kinnard. He understands how to use his massive frame and strong lower half to move defensive linemen on down blocks, but also has the grip strength to latch onto off-ball defenders and keep them locked up in open space.
That impressive movement at the snap translates to being used as a blocker in space. He moves pretty well for a man of his size pic.twitter.com/qpYKzQOqGc— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 8, 2022
That ability to block in open space was utilized by Kentucky because Kinnard was impressive at it. He could be a pulling block, leading the ball carrier through a gap — but was also impressive on screens in open space, not only looking comfortable in open space but having pretty good speed for his size.
It may be why he was projected by some to play guard at the NFL level; The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranked him as the third-best guard in the class, while NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had a third-round draft projection on him as an interior player.
His length is coupled with pretty quick feet off the snap, allowing him to be pretty good at reaching DL lined up inside of him on run plays pic.twitter.com/D2gydPVK1H— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 8, 2022
With the length and hand size he possesses, it allows him to reach block and scoop interior defenders easier than it would be for someone with his foot speed and shorter arms or smaller paws. That said, he does fire off the ball well — both downhill and to get lateral on a pulling block or reach.
When you think of some of the highlight-reel blocks we see Trey Smith or Creed Humphrey deliver, Kinnard has shown similar energy on tape.
Kinnard shows the nastiness to fit right into KC's OL. Here's a few of the highlights: pic.twitter.com/nx2TEoBlFS— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) May 8, 2022
He will go for the extra emphasis on the finish when it’s appropriate, or maybe even when it’s not. Either way, he’s got the foundational strength and pure mass to overpower his opponent in any one-on-one engagement. It might not be as easy at the NFL level, but especially when he refines his technique to use better leverage, he should be able to play with the same bullying fashion for the Chiefs.
The bottom line
The Chiefs need to protect Patrick Mahomes; it appears they’ve done a great job at four of the five starting spots — but you could argue none of the three interior spots are as important as either tackle position.
While they have able bodies like Wylie and Niang with experience in the system, the team should always be working to have the best players possible at the tackle spots specifically. This particular offseason competition will emerge with a worthwhile starter at right tackle, and Kinnard has the foundation from his college experience to be firmly in that mix.