Analysis Opinion

Identifying the best plan for the Chiefs to handle Lucas Niang’s role in 2020

With the 96th pick of the 2020 NFL Draft the Kansas City Chiefs made a pick for the future by selecting OT Lucas Niang from TCU. There had been some speculation that the Chiefs would go offensive line early in the draft but it was unclear if they would take an interior offensive lineman, potentially someone they could plug and play right away or taking a Tackle who they could develop for a year or so behind Eric Fisher and Mitch Schwartz, who are both under contract through the 2021 season. With the pick of Niang, the Chiefs in a way did both. I have already broken down Niang’s film from his time at TCU and it is impressive.

That article touched briefly on the opportunity for him to transition inside for a year for a year or so but this will dive more in depth to some possibilities the Chiefs could use with him in 2020.

Guard

This development was interesting because it shows how much the Chiefs actually liked his tape, and that they believe in him enough to think he could pick up on guard. However, the keyword here is “compete”. It is well known that Andy Reid likes offensive linemen who can play multiple positions and he is also not shy about letting people know he will play who the best five linemen are regardless of their position. This seems good for Niang taking into account that he is just months removed from a hip surgery that caused him to fall in the draft, and the Chiefs have a lot of bodies getting ready for competition along the inside. The Chiefs have seven (or eight) players who could all end up playing either of the three interior positions right now. Austin Reiter seems the most likely to retain his spot even though he was inconsistent at times last season, but he has Chemistry with a certain QB and Andy Reid trusts him. Andrew Wylie, LDT, Martinas Rankin, and Mike Remmers have some kind of NFL experience playing guard every down for their team. Nick Allegretti started 36 games at guard for the University of Illinois but looks to be getting ready to compete for the backup center spot with UDFA Darryl Williams. Niang plays nasty and is good at rooting up defenders in the run game so a fit at guard is possible. If Niang is healthy and ready to go then he will have a chance to get in the mix with the above-mentioned players, but that might not be the best option for the future of the Chiefs.

Tackle

Niang is naturally built like a tackle, at 6-foot-6 and 328 pounds he has all the size in the world and the athletic ability to excel at the position in the NFL. He also has the college production to back him up.

Quick feet, and long arms helped him excel in a career at TCU that was unfortunately cut short due to a hip labrum injury that required surgery. The injury limited his athletic ability and made him play injured until the pain eventually called for him to be shut down for the season. Niang should be ready to go by the time the 2020 season rolls around but he is not yet ready for primetime at the tackle spot, and that’s ok. Mitchell Schwartz is the best RT in football and Eric Fisher is in the upper half of OT’s in the league. If the Chiefs decide to let Niang sit this year and continue to develop as a player that will be totally fine, as it will make sure his body is 100% ready to go for the future but also give him a year to pick up the details of the game and get ready for the onslaught of tremendous edge rushers the NFL has to offer.

Protecting Patrick Mahomes

The Chiefs will be fine with whatever they decide to do with Niang but they would be best to let him sit and wait for a year or so behind Schwartz and Fisher. If he comes in right away and plays well that’s great but for Andy Reid to put him on the field he will have to know and trust play in playing out that Niang can do the right thing and not cause anything to happen to the franchise. That is also why it will be best to let him sit and wait a season. This move in the draft is about protecting Mahomes both now and in the long term. If Niang comes in early and struggles at Guard it could deter his confidence at a position he is not a natural at but could also cause him to lose trust in Mahomes. The Chiefs do need help in the interior right now and Niang may very well have the ability to help them but developing an elite pass-blocking tackle should be the main goal here. Edge players are only getting better and most elite teams have two pass rushers that can wreck games. Andy Reid is a smart enough coach with enough weapons to be able to scheme around poor IOL play, which we saw several times last year. But the ability to keep your franchise player safe for the next ten or so years outweighs most if any short term benefits. Lucas Niang was built to play tackle, has the tape to prove he can play tackle, and has the athletic ability to compete with the best edge rushers at a high level. Let him wait for a year and then let him play tackle.

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