During the 2022 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line got nastier and meaner, adding Darian Kinnard. What areas does he excel in, or what areas does he need to grow?
Offensive lineman Darian Kinnard fits right in with the Kansas City Chiefs‘ offensive line. The former Kentucky Wildcat has blocked the best college football has to offer. Kansas City wants him to now do it in the NFL.
Depending on who you listen to, Kinnard is an interior offensive lineman. Standing 6’5″ and weighing in at 324 lbs., Kinnard is a big human being. He is so proportional that his nearly 36″ arms do not look out of place. The height, weight, and wingspan are eerily similar to current Chiefs right guard Trey Smith.
Kinnard’s and Smith’s stories are also similar. Both were former SEC players, expected to go early in their draft. However, Smith fell due to health concerns and Kinnard inexplicably slipped to Day 3. Both have huge chips on their shoulders, wanting to prove their doubters wrong. Smith was an excellent starter for Kansas City in 2021, starting all 17 games as a rookie. Now, can Kinnard do the same in 2022?
On the surface, Kinnard has a great shot. Incumbent starting right tackle Lucas Niang is still sidelined after suffering a torn patellar tendon in Week 17. Andrew Wylie started several games at right tackle in 2021, and he returned to Kansas City on a one-year deal. Wylie and Niang were both serviceable starters, but neither looks to be in the Chiefs’ current long-term plan. A strong camp and favorable coaching word could insert Kinnard into that long-term plan.
Kinnard and Chiefs general manager Brett Veach both made right tackle a clear priority. Kinnard said during rookie minicamp that “right tackle is the best position for me”, a good sign that the coaches feel the same. Veach told Kinnard during the draft that Kinnard was going to fill in at right tackle, despite all the chatter about Kinnard moving inside.
It is an open competition right now for starting right tackle, but Kinnard has all the necessary tools as a rookie to succeed.
If fans loved Smith’s nasty blocking as a rookie, Kinnard is even nastier. While he does not dominate at the extension point, Kinnard has a solid base and high motor to overpower his completion. He has good north-south movement but does have some lateral limitations. Kinnard has heavy hands in run blocking but has great hand-fighting reps.
Kinnard has good initial movement on plays, rarely allowing players to get by him untouched. Speedy pass-rushers provide a challenge for Kinnard, but his hands routinely contain them. Kinnard had a solid performance against Georgia in 2021, one of college football’s best defensive fronts. In this game, he displayed individual strengths and worked well with his right guard. Whether it was a double team, handling a stunt, or simply checking that the guard had his assignment, Kinnard showed a team leader mindset there.
Kentucky is a run-heavy offense, and Kinnard certainly excels in run-blocking. He moves up to the second level fluidly, easily overpowering at that level. He does not have the speed for screen blocking, something that may hurt the Chiefs’ scheme.
Kinnard never looked overwhelmed as a right tackle, despite his level of competition. The Chiefs really got a steal, selecting such an athletic prospect on Day 3.
Watching some film again, Kinnard’s reps against speed rushers is concerning. Sure, Kinnard can disrupt their arc but not by a considerable amount. Kinnard’s lack of speed hurts him, as he struggles to keep himself near or in front of faster defenders. It is not an uncommon problem for collegiate tackles but is far from ideal in the NFL. Kansas City left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. had similar struggles early in 2021, and he adjusted later in the season. Does Kansas City want two laterally-sluggish tackles protecting quarterback Patrick Mahomes?
Also, while Kinnard can have quick hands in pass protection, his hands lack some punch. He can take defenders down with one arm in run blocking, so he has the strength. Kinnard may just need more coaching or more reassurance in his technique, but he looks hesitant at times. Thankfully, he does not lunge too often and keeps his base.
His pad level can be too high in situations. It is not something erroneous enough that collegiate defenders exploited, but it is enough that NFL defenders will. Thankfully, his movement at the snap is quick enough.
There is a lot to like in Kinnard’s game. He has a good blend of size and strength, made for the NFL. His technique needs work, but he has a good foundation for the Chiefs to work with.
Fans love his demeanor, on and off the field. He is a competitor and has some extra motivation entering his rookie season. He will need that edge if he wants substantial playing time in his rookie season.
Kinnard’s film shows a capable offensive line starting prospect, at either guard or tackle. Could he be a Week 1 guard for another team? Sure, but the Chiefs drafted him to be a right tackle because they know he can do it. His progression before the regular season will be interesting to watch.