Kansas City had come into the draft without a fifth-round pick, but had acquired one (158th overall) in a trade that allowed the New England Patriots to move up four picks in the second round. Ranked as the 70th overall player in our consensus draft rankings, Kinnard was a player the Chiefs wanted — and was still on the board as the fifth round began with pick 144.
“You get to a point where you’re kind of trying to balance everything,” area scout Pat Sperduto said of the situation when he spoke to Kansas City reporters on Saturday, “and you look and see how many names of guys you like are there — and how far you have to go. The names started to dwindle a little bit, but Darian was up a little bit higher — and he was just sitting there. We were like, ‘We better do this now — because in 15 or 20 picks, he’s probably going to be gone.’”
So the Chiefs traded their newly-acquired 158th pick (and pick 233 of the seventh round) to the Seattle Seahawks for the second pick of the fifth round — and used it to grab Kinnard. It was quite a bit later in the draft than the 6-foot-5, 322-pound man-mountain (who also boasts 35-inch arms) was expecting to be taken.
“All the feedback I got was second round — maybe, at best, squeezing to the bottom of the first — and the lowest would be the third round,” Kinnard told reporters in a Zoom call after being selected. “But at the end of the day, man? It’s just another Trey Smith situation. I’ve got a lot of stuff to prove — and a big chip on my shoulder.”
Kinnard said that he’s become accustomed to being disrespected.
“Playing at Kentucky, a lot of us are looked down upon — especially as o-linemen — but we’ve always played with a chip on our shoulder as an offensive line,” he said. “I guess [everyone thought our] power was from our run game. A lot of teams thought that we wouldn’t be contenders for anything — because as long as they could stop the run, they would be fine. But they still couldn’t.
“I’ve always kind of had this underdog mentality — and I’ve always liked it. So I’m going to come in with that kind of mentality right now — and play my ass off for this team.”
The NFL (and most draft sites) had listed Kinnard as a guard — a position where Kansas City already had plenty of talent available — so it’s not surprising that there weren’t many who saw him as a player in which the Chiefs would be interested. But Sperduto says that at the next level, he sees Kinnard more as a tackle — the position where he started for the Wildcats beginning in his sophomore season.
“You have to realize he’s obviously a really good football player,” noted the area scout. “He’s All‐SEC, he’s All‐American, a multiple-year starter at Kentucky, a top recruit. He’s a big, massive man with long arms.”
Sperduto said that Kinnard had come highly recommended by Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops and his assistant coach Vince Marrow, who had recruited Kinnard to Kentucky.
“Now it’s the little things: the techniques, the little bumps he has to work his way through,” added Sperduto. “And we have one of the better o‐line coaches in the league; he can handle it. He did pretty good with a couple of young guys, and we’re hoping he can work his magic one more time.”
Marrow, for his part, believes it will happen.
“Let’s not forget Smith from Tennesee went in the sixth round last year and he started as a rookie for the Chiefs. @Darian_70 will do the same thing,” he tweeted on Saturday morning — hours before the Chiefs selected Kinnard.
All of this adds up to the possibility that Kinnard will be competing with presumed starting right tackle Lucas Niang — who is now coming off an injury — for the starting job.
“I think we can work him as a right tackle,” said Sperduto. “If we needed to, we could put him in at guard. But I think his first spot’s going to be right tackle.”
That would be fine with Kinnard, who said that’s the position where he has had the most experience. But he also made it pretty clear that it doesn’t matter that much to him.
“For me, it’s whatever the team needs. Whatever fit’s going to be the best — that I need to fulfill — I’m going to do that.”
Sperduto said that Kinnard’s team-first attitude was something the the Chiefs had already noted.
“They were going to put him at left [tackle last] year, but they got a transfer in from LSU that couldn’t play on the right side. So in the spring, he was at left — but then they decided this [transfer] guy can’t play on the right. [So it was,] ‘Would you go back to right?’ And he went back to right. He’s unselfish as a player.”
Kinnard clearly understands that as a rookie, he could end up competing for a starting role — and says he is ready to do what’s necessary to make it happen.
“It’s very exciting,” he noted, “but at the end of the day, I’ve got to come in and work. Be a sponge. I’ve got to absorb as much as I can in a short amount of time. It’s going to take a lot of work and effort. Right now, my biggest mindset is, ‘Hit the ground running.’ I’ve got to get ready and be fully prepared — [so] when the season does come, I am playing at the next level.”
Acknowledging that this means he’d be protecting one of the league’s biggest stars in a division that is now filled with top-level pass rushers, Kinnard said it would all be in a day’s work.
“Of course, it’s going to be a lot of stress,” he said. “But I’ve played under stress — and I’m ready for it. I’m ready to go [to the] next level. I’m ready to get started — and really prove that these other teams messed up.”