After the Kansas City Chiefs’ offensive line collapsed during Super Bowl 55, Brett Veach didn’t waste any time getting down to business. In the space of a few months, the general manager rebuilt the unit. He cut some veteran blockers and brought in big names like Joe Thuney and Orlando Brown Jr. to protect Patrick Mahomes.
Lost in that hype, though, is Lucas Niang. While he may be overshadowed by bigger names, the 2020 draft pick could still give Kansas City a nice boost in 2021.
The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t play around rebuilding their offensive line
In Super Bowl 55, a weak offensive line forced Patrick Mahomes to run for his life all evening long. The Kansas City brass, however, clearly learned from that experience ahead of the 2021 offseason.
The rebuilding efforts began when Veach released Eric Fisher and Mitchell Schwartz, both of whom had suffered injuries during the 2020 campaign. The Chiefs then signed Joe Thuney away from the New England Patriots and brought Kyle Long out of retirement.
The biggest play of the offseason, though, was trading for Orlando Brown Jr. While Veach did pay a sizable price for the big lineman, the move carries plenty of upside. Brown may be young, but he has plenty of size and skill. If he can adjust to life at left tackle, he could be Mahomes’ best bodyguard.
Kansas City also snagged two linemen during the draft and added Austin Blythe in free agency. Those efforts, combined with the return of Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, give Kansas City plenty of talent up front.
Lucas Niang returns as the unit’s forgotten man
Given that influx of talent, it’s easy for Chiefs fans to forget about Lucas Niang. The tackle, however, is ready to make his NFL debut this season.
Last year, Veach and company selected Niang, a tackle out of TCU, in the third round of the draft. He never joined the team, though, opting out of the 2020 campaign due to COVID-19. A year later, though, he’s ready to get down to business.
During Chiefs’ recent rookie camp, Niang earned some praise from head coach Andy Reid.
“He’s done a nice job in this camp,” Big Red explained, according to Arrowhead Pride. “He’s a big man — like really, a big man — that has these beautiful feet. So I look forward to getting him back in the pads in training camp: moving around, doing what offensive linemen do — the real football part of it.”
Reid also noted the lineman was in better shape than he was last season, which he called “a plus.”
Lucas Niang could quietly give the Kansas City Chiefs a nice boost
Given the offseason acquisitions of Thuney and Brown, it would be a bit naive to expect Niang to steal the show on the Chiefs’ offensive line. Opting out of the 2020 season, however, could have put him in a solid place to succeed.
Heading into last year’s draft, the biggest negatives on Niang’s scouting report were his need to recover from some recent injuries and some potentially iffy footwork, especially while pass blocking. The passage of time should have allowed his hip to recover fully; if Reid’s comments from rookie camp are any indication, he’s also improved on that footwork.
It’s also worth noting that right tackle is one of the weaker spots on the Chiefs’ line. As of now, Mike Remmers slots in as the starter. While the veteran is solid, he’s not exactly a must-play talent like Brown or Thuney; that, combined with his one-year contract, could give Niang a chance to assert himself as the long-term answer on that side of the line.
Looking at the grand scheme of things, Niang’s success or failure probably won’t be the deciding factor in the Kansas City Chiefs’ 2021 campaign. If he’s able to prove himself as a capable blocker, though, the big could make himself an important part of the club’s future.