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Draft Darlings: Nick Saldiveri has skills to play right tackle in NFL

The small-school prospect has the talent and experience to stay at right tackle for his professional career.

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 02 Reese’s Senior Bowl Practice Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs will have two new players at the offensive tackle positions for the 2023 season — and we know one of them: former Jacksonville Jaguars right tackle Jawaan Taylor, who was signed in free agency and is projected to start at left tackle for the Chiefs.

We genuinely don’t know the other — and probably won’t until we see how they attack the position in the NFL Draft. They have solid options as early as their first pick at 31, with prospects like Tennessee’s Darnell Wright or Ohio State’s Dawand Jones projected to be selected on Day 1 or early on Day 2.

If they decide not to address the position early, there are options to develop players later in the draft. The team’s most likely option on the team now is Lucas Niang; he was the 95th overall selection in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. There is a player within a similar range that shows the skillset to fill this specific need for Kansas City.

Old Dominion offensive lineman Nick Saldiveri has not been officially linked to the Chiefs, but he’s a great option in the middle rounds.

Here’s what to know about Saldiveri:


As a high-school football prospect from North Carolina that also threw the shot put and discus, Saldiveri only earned two stars and decided to enroll at Old Dominion University. He redshirted his first year on campus, then started at right tackle for 11 games in his redshirt freshman season.

Saldiveri became a staple of the team’s offensive line from that point on, earning All-Conference USA honors in both 2021 and 2022 as he started at right tackle and paved the way for record-breaking games, like the most team rushing yards in school history (356 against Hampton in 2021) and the most individual rushing yards (259 by Blake Watson against Coastal Carolina in 2022).

Saldiveri was invited to the Reese’s Senior Bowl and accepted, proving he could handle himself against heightened competition. At the NFL Combine, he measured in at 6’6” and 318 lbs., possessing 10 1/4-inch hands and 33 1/4-inch arms; the arm length is right at the threshold for what NFL teams like at offensive tackle.

The athletic testing was great for Saldiveri; he recorded a vertical leap of 31 inches and a broad jump of 9 feet 3 inches. Both results were in at least the 82nd percentile for offensive tackle prospects historically.

Film evaluation

For most of his career, Saldiveri was the team’s starting right tackle; he played 2,284 snaps over four seasons. However, Saldiveri had to start at right guard for the team’s matchup with Virginia in 2022 and also had 43 snaps at left tackle during his first year playing.

At right tackle, Saldiveri showed a good first step and a technically-sound attack plan when setting the edge at the front of a run play. He gets on edge defenders quickly but does an excellent job of attacking through their inside shoulder — working them outside and opening up ample room for a run play to hit inside of him.

That quick first step also applies to his ability to get to the second level and quickly latch onto off-ball defenders.

Those quick feet also translate to his pass sets, where he comes out of his stance calmly and gets into his drop with a good striking hand and a decent base under him as the rusher engages. His feet aren’t the cleanest in these situations, especially when the rusher has speed and can really threaten to win the corner. He will get sped up and lose his fundamentals, but his active hands allow him to stay in contact and try to redirect even as he’s off balance.

That foot quickness allows him to mirror rushers that work inside on him, getting in front of them and cutting off the counter move. However, he can get off balance in those situations as well, but strong hands can make up for it and allow him to push the rusher across the pocket.

Some draft experts project Saldiveri as a guard at the next level, and he could absolutely be a guard. You can see it in how he comes off for down blocks, crashing down with good angles and driving through blocks to really maximize the gap he is opening up. His work in the run game is absolutely translatable to guard — but it’s also an important skill to have at tackle.

How he fits with the Chiefs

If Kansas City were to select Saldiveri on draft weekend, I project he would come in and compete immediately for the starting right tackle position. That doesn’t mean he will get it, however. I think he could refine his pass blocking, mainly because of how much his competition level is being raised from Old Dominion to the NFL.

Even if Saldiveri can’t work out at right tackle, he is going to be high-quality depth for both guard positions. That versatility has always been valued by the Chiefs, which is why Saldiveri is such an intriguing option for Kansas City.

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