‘Massive’ Draft Prospect Projected to 49ers, Could Bolster Offensive Line

Vanderbilt UK

Getty Dimitri Moore of Vanderbilt works against Darian Kinnard of Kentucky during a November 14, 2020 regular season SEC game.

Could the San Francisco 49ers and the University of Kentucky be in for a rare swap?

With quarterbacks coach Rich Scangarello leaving the franchise to become the Kentucky Wildcats’ offensive coordinator, first reported by Tom Peliserro of the NFL Network.

But while Scangarello is heading to Lexington to take the quarterback reins, one key member of the Wildcats’ offense has been tabbed as the potential No. 61 overall pick of the 2022 NFL draft — where the 49ers hold their first pick.

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The Wildcat Who Could fit the 49ers

Scangarello won’t get a chance to coach Kentucky’s Darian Kinnard. However, 49ers offensive line coach Chris Foerster and head coach Kyle Shanahan have an opportunity.

Kinnard is the latest possibility to be taken in the second round by the franchise — with Pro Football Focus placing the towering and powerful 6-foot-5, 324-pound right tackle as the 49ers’ selection in their Monday, February 21 mock draft update.

Kinnard has a believer in Bleacher Report’s Brandon Thorn, who used the word “massive” as the first word to describe the lineman’s positives.

“Massive frame with a surprisingly lean build,” was Thorn’s first line. “Carries his weight well and has eye-catching burst out of his stance.”

So Kinnard isn’t just someone carrying 324-pounds. He’s quick and agile for a prospect of his stature. Thorn also described Kinnard as having an aggressive, physical demeanor with “heavy hands to stun and torque defenders when he connects.”

Recently during Senior Bowl practices, Kinnard took on B/R’s fifth-rated edge rusher prospect Jerome Johnson III out of Florida State three times — and the SEC versus ACC battle went Kinnard’s way twice against the defender projected to go higher (No. 38 in the second round) than the UK standout.

But before his final college game, Kinnard showed versatility in moving inside at right guard — highlighted here by former NFL lineman and Super Bowl 31 winner Aaron Taylor of CBS Sports. Taylor not only notices the double team featuring Kinnard, but how the Wildcat finishes the block in violent fashion:

Kentucky sports radio host Adam Luckett also captured a pummeling moment from Kinnard at the same inside spot of the offensive line.

Kinnard did get some reps in inside during Senior Bowl practices, which can definitely bolster his stock as a lineman who can show a mean streak at multiple spots.

Could Kinnard be a Suitable Fit?

One area where Kinnard is at his best from breaking down his film: He thrived in zone-run schemes when the Wildcats turned to the ground game.

Guess where the 49ers were at their deadliest? On running plays requiring zone blocking.

PFF isn’t the only one with the belief that Kinnard can thrive on an offensive line that features All-Pro Trent Williams, savvy veteran Alex Mack and possibly, returning left guard Laken Tomlinson if he gets resigned when free agency starts on March 16.

Sports Illustrated’s C.J. Errickson is another who is high on Kinnard’s prospects of becoming a 49er, writing “Kinnard can be the driving force of what elevates the Niners rushing attack to elite form in 2022.”

For what it’s worth, Kinnard becomes an immediate need if the 49ers lose their unrestricted free agent guards Tomlinson and Tom Compton in free agency plus also lose tackle Daniel Brunskill (restricted free agent). But Kinnard joining Mack, Williams and a healthier Mike McGlinchey makes this 49ers front line a massive and menacing unit.

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