Let’s look at the pro potential of Kansas City Chiefs fifth-round pick Darian Kinnard in both the short- and long-term.
Darian Kinnard isn’t your average fifth-round pick. He is one of the most popular rookies of the 2022 class for the Kansas City Chiefs. As an offensive lineman, his development, both short and long-term, will be closely monitored by fans.
Darian Kinnard was selected 145th overall in the 5th round of the 2022 NFL draft by the Chiefs. They drafted him after they traded the 158th and 233rd overall picks to the Seattle Seahawks for the 145th overall pick.
Per The Athletic’s Arif Hasan’s 2022 NFL Draft Consensus Big Board, Kinnard was a projected early third-round selection. After the Chiefs officially made their selection of him, many analysts, including Matt Miller, expressed support for the pick:
I had Kinnard as a mid-to-slate third-round selection, so I was thrilled for the Chiefs to get him in the middle of Day Three.
We’ve heard from several sources since the draft about how Kinnard was a “steal” for the Chiefs, but how will he fit with the team, both short-term and long-term?
Kinnard was a three-year starter at right tackle for the University of Kentucky. He had snap counts of 706, 697, and 822 in 2019, 2020, and 2021, respectively, per Pro Football Focus (PFF). All but 2 of those snaps came at RT. Also per PFF, with 90.0 considered elite, he earned overall grades of 89.2, 91.5, and 91.9 in 2019, 2020, and 2021, allowing 7 total sacks in that span, including only 1 in 2021.
Last season, Kinnard earned an 87.8 Run Block Grade, 91.8 Pass Block Grade, and an 86.1 Grade in True Pass Sets (pass-blocking snaps excluding plays with less than 4 rushers, play action, screens, short dropbacks, and times-to-throw under 2 seconds).
Per the PFF 2022 Draft Guide, Kinnard’s technique “has a long way to go before he can see the field.” More specifically, Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network wrote that “Kinnard’s punch timing and placement linger as my biggest primary question regarding his resume and transition to the next level.”
Again per Crabbs, he showed inconsistency versus speed rushers and played in an offense that featured relatively few traditional drop-back passing plays. PFF wrote that his “pass-set technique is non-existent and needs to be rebuilt from the ground up”.
With concerns regarding Kinnard’s hand technique and raw pass blocking, he projects as a first-year backup at guard for Joe Thuney and Trey Smith. Since the Chiefs have Orlando Brown Jr. (assuming he gets his contract done or signs his franchise tag), Geron Christian, Andrew Wylie, and Lucas Niang all on the roster for 2022, Kinnard is under no pressure to play either tackle position his rookie year.
Despite all of the concerns with his pass protection, Kinnard is a Day 1 run blocker in the NFL and was a bully in the SEC, a conference full of maulers across defenses. In my opinion, Kinnard will compete with Nick Allegretti (who will also serve as the main backup center to Creed Humphrey) to be the primary backup guard this season and will spend the better part of the year working with Andy Heck to potentially become the team’s right tackle of the future.
Kinnard has been a prospect who’s been projected by most as a guard in the NFL, despite playing right tackle in the SEC majority of his career. Even with the many doubts about his ability to play outside, there are some analysts who view him as a long-term RT, including renowned offensive line coach Duke Manyweather:
I believe, due to Trey Smith already being an established right guard and Joe Thuney being an elite left guard, it makes sense for the Chiefs to use Kinnard as a backup early who can potentially develop into a starting right tackle role in the future.
Also, Smith is locked up at an average of just under $975,000 a season through 2024 and Joe Thuney is signed through 2025, with a potential out for the Chiefs after 2024, per OverTheCap.
In terms of Right Tackle, the Chiefs currently have Andrew Wylie, who is a free agent after the 2022 season and could be due a raise if his upcoming campaign is successful; Geron Christian, a career swing tackle who is also only signed through the 2022 season; and Lucas Niang, who while signed through the 2024 season has serious injury concerns as well as average pass blocking performance during his unofficial rookie season in 2021.
For most fans, it’s safe to say that right tackle isn’t properly addressed long-term with three question marks for 2023 and beyond by any of the three previously mentioned players.
Kinnard will have to greatly improve his overall technique as a pass blocker in order to see consistent snaps, but his already-developed run-blocking ability will make him an intriguing option early in his career. I also believe that, in order to play right tackle, he will have to drop a little weight in order to help improve his athleticism, which is already considered above average by some analysts, like Kyle Crabbs.
With Smith and Thuney being roster locks, barring anything unexpected, through at least 2024, and right tackle not addressed after 2022, it makes sense that the Chiefs would view Darian Kinnard as a cheap depth OL piece very early in his career with a chance to be the team’s starting right tackle in ’23 and beyond.