In one of the biggest surprises of the 2022 NFL Draft, All-American tackle Darian Kinnard slipped to day three. That fall lasted until round five, but the multi-year starter at Kentucky has found a great home.
The Chiefs traded up to grab the No. 145 overall pick, general manager Brett Veach moved to grab the two-time All-SEC selection the next big piece of their offensive line after addressing defense with a pair of first-round selections.
How does Darian Kinnard fit into the offense paced by star quarterback Patrick Mahomes? Well, the Chiefs play a style of football that matches the strengths of the Kentucky star, and this group needs a player on the right side of the line with some positional versatility.
After an awful performance in a blowout loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Super Bowl LV, the Chiefs committed to fixing their offensive line. It started in the draft as the franchise nailed picks with Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith. Elsewhere, the franchise landed Orlando Brown Jr. via trade and Joe Thuney in free agency. The Chiefs flipped their offensive line in just a few months. Meanwhile, 2020 third-round pick Lucas Niang is locked into a rookie contract and gives the offense a solid starter at right tackle.
The starters are set, but the Chiefs need depth in the trenches. Andrew Wylie is the primary backup at both right guard and right tackle. The 27-year-old is entering his fifth year in the NFL but has just one year remaining on his contract. Kinnard — who could play both right guard and right tackle at the next level — could be the succession plan for Andy Reid’s talented offensive line.
The offense is dropback pass game heavy as the Chiefs want Mahomes to shred defenses every Sunday. However, the run game still plays an important part. With the new look offensive line, Kansas City has leaned into the power game utilizing a primary gap scheme rushing attack. Reid asks for his big guys up front to work together on double teams and to pull for blocks on both power and counter concepts.
That is right in Kinnard’s wheelhouse.
The transition to a wide zone offense didn’t fully happen under Liam Coen in 2021 at Kentucky, and the Wildcats went back to some bread-and-butter power concepts. When running those, Kinnard excelled as both a puller and violent down blocker who can move defensive line players off their spot.
Pass protection is a worry and something Darian Kinnard must improve on if the Chiefs call for the former four-star recruit to play tackle full-time. However, if inside, Kinnard’s strengths would be enhanced as cleaned up punch placement would allow the 322-pound player to shut off rushes with his strong grip strength and wide base.
Last year, Smith fell to the sixth round as the former blue-chip recruit lost some luster in the pre-draft process. However, that pick was a coup for the AFC West franchise as the Tennessee product looks like the football organization’s long-term answer at right guard.
The Chiefs are hopeful something similar happens to Kinnard once he arrives at Arrowhead Stadium. There is a clear scheme fit, room to have an immediate role as a rotational piece, and a franchise that has a track record with similar prospects.