Kentucky star offensive lineman Darian Kinnard made a business decision by turning down the NFL to return to Kentucky for one final season. Once projected as a mid-round pick in the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, the 6-foot-5, 345-pound right tackle decided to return to school in hopes of boosting his draft stock even further as a senior.
It was a similar move former UK superstar Josh Allen made just a few years back, one that resulted in a four-year, $22,742,638 contract as the No. 7 overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Kinnard hopes to make a similar jump in year four.
“I know personally I have all the confidence in the world in my abilities and how I can play, but sitting down and talking to Josh (Allen) on the phone, it just made me really sit back and think,” Kinnard said upon returning to school. “This last month was just very stressful, trying to make this decision, but after talking with Josh and understanding where he came from and what he went through, this was probably the best decision for me and my family.
“I want to be able to go to the NFL like everybody else. I’m so close but I know there’s some things I gotta work on to make sure I stay in the NFL for a long time. I’m going to come back, work on myself and better my team. … I wanted to be able to come back and improve on all of the feedback I got from the NFL and make sure there was no holes in my game and there was no reason for me to not be a lottery pick next year. I’m just going to come back, bust my ass, play for this team and continue to be the best teammate I can be.”
The first step in making that jump? A position change.
Friday evening, the standout lineman announced he would be moving from right tackle to left in 2021, replacing Landon Young at the most valuable position on the offensive line.
“Wait till they see me at LEFT,” Kinnard wrote on Twitter.
Wait till they see me at LEFT ? https://t.co/J3s7Fz80BI
— ?Darian Kinnard? (@Darian_70) January 23, 2021
Widely considered the money position in the NFL, Kinnard’s move on the line was one KSR heard as a strong possibility immediately following his decision to return to Lexington. With four offensive tackles – three being left tackles – being taken in the first 13 picks of the 2019 NFL Draft, the opportunity to climb the draft boards and put himself in prime position for a massive payday is certainly there.
A first team Pro Football Focus All-American and a first team AP All-SEC selection, Kinnard has started in 26 straight games at right tackle. In the regular season, the Knoxville native graded at 88 percent with 40 knockdown blocks and 138 blocks at the point of attack.
Needless to say, Kinnard has a big year ahead of him.