Darian Kinnard can be a day one starter

The Kansas City Chiefs once again took a low-risk high-reward offensive lineman in the later rounds of the draft. Darian Kinnard has the Chance to be a day one starter.

Last offseason the Kansas City Chiefs completely rebuilt their offensive line and had five brand new starters at the beginning of the 2021 season. They signed All-Pro guard Joe Thuney in free agency, traded for Orlando Brown who looks to be the left tackle of the future, and drafted a pair of potential All-Pros in Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith. It took them some time to put it all together, but by the time the season was over the unit had gelled into one of the best in the NFL, and all of the before mentioned players showed noticeable improvement as the season progressed.

While the unit did show flashes of elite play, they still lacked some consistency at the right tackle position. Lucas Niang started the season, and while he did show flashes, his inconsistent play and injuries hampered his season. A season-ending tear of his patellar tendon in week 17 makes him no sure bet to start 2022 healthy, and the Chiefs don’t have time to wait it out. Andrew Wylie filled in at the right tackle with Niang out, and while he played admirably the team it appears was still looking to improve at the position.

The offensive line was far from a need for the Chiefs in this draft, but as the players started to fall off the board in the later rounds the temptation to take a potential home run swing was too much for Brett Veach to resist. For the second consecutive draft, Veach and the Chiefs took a chance on a player who fell further than most expected. Last year it was Trey Smith, and we all know how that ended up. This year it was for a 6’5″ 345-pound mauler who went toe to toe every week with the best of the SEC.

Darrian Kinnard is a heavy-handed, nasty, throwback type player, and he has all the chance and potential to be a day one starter in the NFL. When evaluating this year’s draft prospects I and many others had Kinnard easily being a day two selection.

Based on his height and size I had assumed that he would play guard in the NFL, due to his thicker frame, and ability to maul in the run game. However, it appears that while he does not have a prototypical tackle build, Kinnard has every intention of playing tackle in the NFL.

His 35-inch-long arms were the longest of any player in the draft, and he also had the largest hands. This is fitting given that much of his playstyle is based on using his dominant upper body strength, and the ability to block with independent hands to hold off the pass-rushers week in and week out. Players with 35-inch arms typically fall into the 6’7″ or 6’8″ height category, but at 6’5″ Kinnard has the long levers, but also can out leverage and use his base to anchor down. This and his ability to bench defenders off his body lead to him being one of the best tackles in the SEC for the last two seasons.

Kinnard is explosive out of his stance, taking technical first steps to gain depth and width, and then exploding through contact. He is particularly talented down blocking, and this is a great fit for the backside of the zone, and the play side of power and counter, both plays that Andy Reid likes to run. If Kinnard were to line up next to Trey Smith it would be the most physical double-team block in the NFL.

It seems like leading up to the draft most teams saw Kinnard as a guard, but maybe a chance for his fall was that he told teams he wanted to play tackle in the NFL, and they used his athletic testing numbers or some issues he had against speed rushers to justify not wanting to take a chance on him. This is all justifiable, but his tape against the best of the best in the SEC makes it seem that he is more than capable of playing tackle at the next level.

Kinnard can move well in space, and he takes good angles when getting up to the second level, or when pulling. The clip above shows how smooth he can get to the second level, quick down, then up quick right into the linebacker because he took a good angle. Once he is locked on he gets his hands inside, and you can see the brute power and aggression on full display.

He may also be able to provide something the Chiefs offense was missing last season, but that’s the ability to block outside zone and pin and pull. The Chiefs didn’t run much outside the tackles last year, partially due to not having many backs on the team that excel at that type of play, but outside zone and pin and pull are not plays they were eager to run with Orlando Brown or Niang, and Wylie was not trusted to seal the edge on either. Kinnard has the quickness, and the natural dip with his block to seal an edge, or lead around the end.

Most players drafted in the fifth round and beyond are a long shot to make their teams, let alone start, and Kinnard will still have a ways to go, but this is an overall good situation for him and the Kansas City Chiefs. He will instantly provide quality competition, and even if he does not pan out on the right side, he will be a high-level backup with the ability to play the interior or at tackle. He might even at some point have a chance to start at guard for the Chiefs if the injury were to occur.

A high-level backup is a worst-case scenario, but I don’t foresee that happening. Kinnard has a few things that cannot be taught and linemen either have or don’t. The first is the long arms, they can make up for other deficiencies, and when combined with his hands of stone make it a chore for edge rushers to have to get around him. The next is the all-out effort and relentless pursuit to finish a play Kinnard shows play in and play out. He plays the game with fire and aggression and takes a business-like approach with him every step of the way. This pick will have a chance to go down as a steal, and one that will benefit both Kinnard and Kansas City.