Looking back at what draft experts had to say about Kansas City Chiefs tackle Lucas Niang before the 2020 NFL Draft.
Given the emergence of the Kansas City Chiefs offensive line as a top-five unit in the league over the past year, competition for snaps is intense. Orlando Brown Jr. seems on the verge of becoming one of the highest-paid left tackles in football. Joe Thuney is the second highest paid guard in football (in AAV and total contract value alike), and Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith both established themselves as staples in 2021.
The only position across the offensive line that appears to be up for grabs at the moment is right tackle. Brett Veach resigned five-year veteran Andrew Wylie to a one-year, $2.5 million dollar deal and used a fifth-round draft pick on Darian Kinnard this year. It is Wylie and Kinnard in competition with Lucas Niang for the starting role in 2022. Wylie has clearly earned some respect in the NFL ranks given his most recent contract, and Kinnard has a chip on his shoulder from sliding in the draft, but as a reminder of just how talented Niang is, let’s look back at what draft experts had to say about him in 2020.
Matt Miller of ESPN (formerly Bleacher Report) drew comparisons for Niang to veteran tackles Ja’Wuan James and Andre Smith. Neither James nor Smith were consistently full-time starters in their respective careers but combined for 18 total seasons in the NFL and there was never a sack allowed between them. Niang made the first nine starts of his career in 2021, appearing in 12 total games and didn’t allow a sack. A solid base for a young player who will have a chance to earn a full-time starting job this season.
Jacob Infante, an analyst for The Draft Wire, made note of Niang’s strength:
"”In addition to his quickness for such a big tackle, Niang also possesses plenty of power in his game. He plays with good grip strength…allowing him to seal off running lanes.”"
Of course, since Niang was drafted in 2020, the Chiefs’ offense has been heavily reliant upon the passing game. In the upcoming season, however, with such high investment going into the running back room, Niang’s strengths as a run blocker will be able to better shine through as expected.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein had high praise for Niang’s mental capacity and his ability to utilize his massive frame in saying, “[He’s a] Dancing bear with good agility and a great football IQ” Zierlein creatively coined his appreciation for Niang and his agility, size, and mauling ability as a blocker.
There is fierce competition ahead for the starting right tackle role in Kansas City, but if Niang can channel his inner dancing bear and showcase what was praised within his game ahead of the 2020 draft, he will have a great shot at winning the job.