So, what does that mean for the team’s plans at right tackle? Well, the 2023 NFL draft will certainly play a role. It’s possible that the Chiefs manage to draft a left tackle of the future and keep Taylor at right tackle. It’s also possible they end up drafting a rookie to play at right tackle, but that rookie won’t be without competition.
Former 2020 third-round draft pick Lucas Niang is currently a part of the Chiefs’ plans at right tackle. Niang was one of the first players to opt out amidst the COVID-19 pandemic during his rookie season. He started nine games in 2021, including eight games at right tackle. In his ninth start, filling in for Orlando Brown Jr. on the left side in Week 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals, he suffered a season-ending patellar tendon injury.
It wasn’t the prettiest kick slide from Niang, but he got the job done on a six-man blitz. As his former teammate Kyle Long wrote, “Niang is not a Monet, but he’s money when he’s right physically.”
Right now, Niang is a lot closer to being right physically than he has been at any point in his NFL career.
When he entered the NFL out of TCU, he was still dealing with the remnants of a hip injury that dropped him to the third round of the draft in the first place. Rehabbing from his 2021 knee injury, Niang has been able to drop his weight and reshape his body toward NFL standards.
“He lost a lot of weight (during his return last season), and I think we know he can do it,” Chiefs GM Brett Veach said of Niang, via The Athletic. “We feel confident in him. If that’s the case, we’d go into the offseason (program) with Lucas penciled in (at right tackle), and he’d have to show us that he’s back to his old form.”
The plan here hasn’t yet been that far altered outside of Wylie leaving in free agency. Things could change during the draft or even perhaps in free agency, but as of right now, Niang is going to get an opportunity to prove himself during the offseason program. He’ll get an opportunity to go out there and compete and prove that he has what it takes to be a starter in the league.