The 49ers moved on from DeForest Buckner, then used the NFL Draft pick acquired in return to get Javon Kinlaw who has big shoes to fill.
Kinlaw coming to the Niners wasn’t without controversy. After all, San Francisco had just traded away one of its best defensive players, Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, in a salary cap-saving move by trading him to the Indianapolis Colts for the No. 13 overall pick in the draft. Sure, the move freed up roughly $12 million from the 49ers’ 2020 cap number and allowed the team to avoid paying Buckner the average annual salary of $21 million he’s now receiving in Indy.
The 49ers then turned that pick into Kinlaw by moving down a spot and grabbing the defensive tackle at No. 14 overall, capitalizing on his now-cheaper rookie contract in its opening year.
But going from a proven Pro Bowler to a rookie, even one with plenty of promise, can be a risky move. And it wasn’t made more popular by the fact the Niners have now used five first-round draft picks on defensive linemen in the last six years, including Buckner back in 2016.
Still, Kinlaw presents an enticing addition to what’s arguably San Francisco’s most talented unit heading into 2020. While Buckner was sometimes seen as a tweener, mixed in between a defensive end and inside defender, Kinlaw’s stout 6-foot-5, 319-pound frame makes for a pure inside presence capable of eating up double teams and freeing up the 49ers’ crop of elite-level pass-rushers.
That’s the hope, anyway.
While it’s premature to automatically expect massive things from a rookie in year one, Kinlaw has an excellent chance to provide a huge impact right out of the gate.
Niner Noise’s “Who Is?” series evaluates all these factors about the team’s top draft pick.