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Film session: Chiefs take OT Lucas Niang with pick number 96

In the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs made a selection for the future. Lucas Niang, who had been a three-year starter at right tackle for TCU, was the man Brett Veach and Andy Reid chose. Standing 6ft6 and weighing 315 pounds, Niang has great size for the position. Niang didn’t work out at the combine but for offensive linemen that usually does not matter. It isn’t an indicator for their on-field athletic ability. Niang’s athletic and skill at the position is very easy to pick up on after watching just a few clips of his film.

Niang is perfectly built to pass protection in the NFL. He has 34 inch arms and very smooth, quick feet. Here in 2018, against second overall pick, Chase Young, he shows great fundamentals. Niang does not have a devastating punch and lock out, but what he does well is hand fight and counter rushers moves. He wins the hand placement battle against Young and is able to move his hands into Young’s body to run him up the field. He finishes the play with a nice shove.

The smooth athletic ability also transitions can also bee seen in how well he works to the second level in the run game. The big man is a physical player and he has a nasty streak to match it.

Niang will excel in outside zone and stretch plays given his physical gifts. Here he takes good footwork and is able to reach the defensive end. He drives him down the field as the back makes his cut and finishes him with into the ground for the pancake block.

While Niangs ability to run block is impressive, the Chiefs appear to have drafted him for the future. For him to be a future Chiefs’ tackle, he is going to need to be able to pass protect. Niang has the numbers on his side from his college career. According to Pro Football Focus, since 2017, Niang tallied 975 pass-blocking snaps and didn’t record a single sack allowed. In those three seasons, he posted grades of 77.2, 83.5, and 81.0. These are very good numbers and when watching him in pass protection. The way he competes, it isn’t hard to see what Andy Reid and Brett Veach saw.

Niang has a very high football IQ and rarely looks confused or lost on the field. This knowledge combined with his field awareness makes him very hard to beat. Last season, a torn hip labrum severely impeded his play and it was most noticeable in his pass protection. He would end up missing the final games of his senior season in order to take care of the injury and himself. His pass set still needs some work but he has the tools to change his technique for the better.

Admittedly when I first reviewed film I gave him a Fourth Round grade which is pretty close to where the Chiefs took him. Below is my initial review on him when going through to grade players.

Now, the grading was pretty close to what they ended up taking him at, but some new developments have occured to where some have speculated that Niang could move into the interior at one of the guard spots.

This was not something I foresaw when going through to do my review initially, but after going back and taking a look at how he plays it does make sense to consider it a possibility. He is a very mobile linemen and he moves well in space. This translates well to pulling.

He also has a good run demeanor in the run game that coaches will look for when trying to find blockers for the interior. He has a good base and good hands and runs his feet well. He gives a little shove at the end to let the DE know who was in charge of that play.

With Mitchell Schwartz and Eric Fisher each under contract for the next two seasons, it may seem somewhat early to find someone to replace each of them. However, when thinking how hard it is to find premium protection at the tackle spot and how loaded this draft class was, it makes sense for the Chiefs to look to the future with this pick. Protecting Patrick Mahomes will be the key to the franchise moving forward and Niang will have to earn the trust of his new QB as well as the coaches if he wants to have a chance to play in the coming years. Whether he lines up at guard or not this year, make no mistake the team will be grooming him for a starting tackle spot someday. He will have plenty of help between Andy Reid, OL coach, Andy Heck, as well as consummate professionals Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz. Niang has every trait imaginable to succeed, and given the system of player development Andy Reid has established in Kansas City, the Chiefs might have found their premiere protector for the future.

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