The Kansas City Chiefs’ offseason reconstruction of their offensive tackles is expected to continue next weekend during the league’s annual NFL Draft. After allowing left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. to explore free agency (and letting right tackle Andrew Wylie walk), general manager Brett Veach signed former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor.
Taylor predominantly played on the right side with the Jaguars, but the Chiefs have maintained he can move over to left tackle if necessary. Veach’s pre-draft press conference — held on Thursday at the Arrowhead Stadium practice facility — marked the first opportunity to hear why Taylor was first on his offseason priority list.
Veach revealed that Kansas City’s personnel team has liked Taylor since before Jacksonville selected him in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
“[Taylor] played right tackle in Florida predominantly,” said Veach. “He had some snaps at left tackle, played right tackle in the NFL. He’s a guy [who is] athletically — he’s long, [with] quick feet — [a] really, really efficient pass protector. I think it wasn’t a secret that once free agency started, a tackle was at the top of that list — and I think we have great flexibility with him. He certainly wants the opportunity to play left — but if we were to draft a left tackle, we know what Jawaan tape looks like at right tackle there — so excited to get him.”
Veach’s messaging on Taylor’s 2023 position — left or right tackle — is one of ambiguity, which matches that of head coach Andy Reid, who joined the media via Zoom on Monday.
“Even though he was on the right side, I think he can transfer over to the left side,” said Reid. “He’s a really good athlete, and I think he’s excited about that. And that doesn’t mean he can’t play the right side. If you had another left tackle, he could play the right side. So he gives you flexibility. He probably could jump in at guard, and he’s smart. He probably could play center if he had to. He’s a pretty talented kid. Look forward to getting him in here. I think that was a great pickup by Brett.”
During his initial conversation with the press after hooking on with the Chiefs, Taylor appeared unbothered by a potential switch. If anything, he made it sound as though it would be easy.
“Left tackle, right tackle — just a flip of the hips, honestly,” said Taylor. “Other than that, if you’re athletic enough and you trust your feet and you’ve got great coaching as well — [and] I know that’s here — I feel like that transition will be pretty good.”
The situation has translated into a lot of options for the Chiefs.
As it stands on Thursday, Taylor is slated to be Kansas City’s left tackle. But that could swiftly change if — for example — Kansas City trades pick No. 31 and pick No. 95 to get in the range of 15 to 20 and select a left tackle they feel could start on Day 1.
In another scenario, maybe that hypothetical doesn’t play out. Perhaps instead, it’s a pass rusher available in that range. In that case, the Chiefs have some in-house candidates that Veach thinks are legitimate options for the offensive line.
It begins with Lucas Niang, who actually earned the right tackle job to start the 2021 season before dealing with midseason injuries — and eventually suffering one that ended his season: a rupture of his patellar tendon. Niang began 2022 on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list before earning a handful of snaps down the stretch.
2023 marks a new chapter for the 24-year-old.
“We have a lot of hopes for Lucas,” said Veach. “It’s been a little bit of an uphill battle — he had a pretty bad injury there. But he has worked phenomenally to get in shape, and (vice president of sports and medicine) Rick [Burkholder] and his staff have done a great job of continuing to get him in the right positions to get out there and be productive.”
Veach added that Prince Tega Wanogho has steadily grown since joining the club — and also that last year’s fifth-round pick, Darian Kinnard, remains in the mix.
“I’m excited for him,” said Veach of Kinnard. “I think he’ll have a chance to play some tackle. We certainly think he has flex, and he may end up being ultimately a better guard. He’s played right tackle in the past, and he was a guy that struggled a little early on, but I think toward the end of training camp there — and throughout the season — he’s grown rapidly over the last few months, and I know (offensive line) coach [Andy] Heck is really excited for where he is. Again, I think he’s a guy that has flexibility, so he’ll probably get reps at both guard and tackle there.
“Between those three guys — and we have three solid guys that can go in there and compete. I’m sure we’ll look to continue to add depth all across that offensive line.”
Who will be the Chiefs’ starting right tackle to begin the 2023 season?
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Prince Tega Wanogho
A rookie draft pick