Round 1: SF 49ers Defensive Tackle Javon Kinlaw
There are equal parts disappointment and excitement surrounding the SF 49ers’ top selection from the 2020 NFL Draft, South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw.
On one hand, it was always going to be unfair to assume he’d immediately fill the shoes vacated by Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner when the latter was traded to the Indianapolis Colts earlier last offseason. And it was equally unfair to assume the Niners would get top-end production out of Kinlaw when compared to their first-round pick from the year prior, EDGE Nick Bosa, who took home Defensive Rookie of the Year accolades in 2019.
Kinlaw didn’t benefit from season-ending injuries to Bosa, EDGE Dee Ford and defensive tackle Solomon Thomas early in the year either, and the rookie was asked to do far more than what was initially expected.
The traditional stats don’t necessarily jump out. Kinlaw had only 33 tackles, 1.5 sacks and four quarterback hits. And his overall Pro Football Focus grade of 54.1 suggests San Francisco didn’t come close to getting a likable return.
Yet the flash plays were there, including Kinlaw’s interception returned for a touchdown against the LA Rams late in the season. That was amid the stretch of games where his sacks were coming, too, indicating there’s some excellent player development on the table.
Kinlaw needs to be more consistent, but there’s no reason to assume it won’t happen.
In a year or two, this grade should be much, much better.