Since Mitchell Schwartz suffered a back injury in Week 6 of the 2020 season, the Kansas City Chiefs have been a turnstile at right tackle.
The club has trotted out multiple players, yet none had seized the opportunity to become the full-time starter. During the draft process, general manager Brett Veach pointed out that right tackle was the final position the Chiefs were looking to fill on the offensive side of the ball. Between a known veteran, a free agent signing and two recent draft picks, the Chiefs have four viable options competing to be the starter there come Week 1 of this coming season. Let's dive into them.
Andrew Wylie: The incumbent
Andrew Wylie will soon be entering his fifth season in Kansas City. He started his career as a guard, playing on the right side in 2018 before transitioning to left guard in 2019. The 2020 AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl were the first NFL games in which Wylie played right tackle.
Wylie entered the 2021 season as a versatile backup and the third right tackle on the depth chart. However, after multiple injuries, he was inserted into the starting lineup. He struggled in his first few games as he tried to get comfortable working with the other linemen. After Wylie settled in, however, his play was solid. With that said, he was better as a run blocker than a pass protector.
Wylie struggled with pass rushers beating him around the corner. Then, in the playoffs, his play declined. He went back to struggling and not playing up to a starting-level standard. If the Chiefs were to play a game today, Wylie would likely be their starting right tackle. Luckily, there are no games until early September, so the Chiefs can look at their other options. Wylie is the bar — if anyone can top him, the job is theirs for the taking.
Starting Chance: 45%
Geron Christian: Veteran challenger
Geron Christian was one of the first free agents that the Chiefs signed this offseason. He was brought in to add depth and possibly compete with Wylie for the starting job at right tackle. At the NFL level, Christian has primarily played left tackle to this point. He does have experience playing on the right side, though.
Compared to Wylie, Christian is a better pass blocker. This very well could be why the Chiefs coveted him as a free agent. With his profile, he's seen by many as a better fit in the club's pass-heavy offense. With that said, he will be at a disadvantage when it comes to having or developing chemistry with Kansas City's other offensive linemen.
Wylie and Lucas Niang have been in the Chiefs organization for multiple years now and have built that aforementioned chemistry along the offensive line. Christian will have to work hard to earn the trust of Patrick Mahomes, Andy Reid and his peers in the offensive line room. If he can do that, he may be the starter by the time Week 1 rolls around.
Starting Chance: 15%
Lucas Niang: The forgotten
In the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Chiefs selected Niang. The second overall pick in that draft, Chase Young, said Niang was his toughest opponent in college. The TCU offensive lineman fell in the draft due to injury concerns, and those concerns, unfortunately, followed him to the NFL.
Niang decided to sit out during the 2020 COVID-ridden season, as he was still recovering from a hip injury. Then, during the 2021 season, he missed multiple games with shoulder and rib ailments before tearing his patellar tendon in Week 17. With the uncertainty of exactly when he will return still being very real, Niang is flying under the radar in the starting competition.
Naturally, due to his size and stature, Niang is heavy on his feet and a bit slow in comparison to some of his peers. That was an issue a season ago. He's powerful in the run game, but he struggled in pass protection due to this overwhelming power element of his game. Niang often gave up the corner to speed rushers, and he has a lot of work to do — in addition to rehabbing — if he wants to be the Chiefs' opening week starter at right tackle.
Starting Chance: 5%
Darian Kinnard: New kid on the block
As the Chiefs were selecting Darian Kinnard in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Brett Veach said, "We had one more check box that we needed to fill out here before this draft ended, and it was right tackle." Kinnard was projected to be selected at some point on Day Two of the draft but fell due to medical concerns. The Chiefs moved up to select him, and there's hope for him to be the starting right tackle for the foreseeable future.
Pending a new contract with Orlando Brown Jr., if Kinnard wins the job, every starting Chiefs offensive lineman will be under contract for at least the next three years. Having continuity in that unit is crucial, and it's why a guy like Wylie currently has the edge. However, Kinnard is the player who the Chiefs could like to start for obvious reasons. He very well could have every opportunity to seize that chance early on.
Kinnard uses his size to maul opposing defenders in the run game. He isn't the most athletic player, but he uses his long arms to keep defenders from pressuring the quarterback. With that said, he will need to work on his footwork as he is heavy on his feet at times. If the Chiefs want Kinnard to be the starter on September 11, it's up to him to start proving that he's the man for the job.
Starting Chance: 35%
With every other position of the offense set, the only one left to figure out is who the starter at right tackle is. It will be fascinating to watch which player manages to stand out during a Chiefs training camp that is quickly approaching.
Let's get ready to rumble.