49ers roster: 5 players most likely to have a breakout season in 2021

Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Brandon Aiyuk #11 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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Javon Kinlaw, SF 49ers
San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw (99) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers have a number of players just reaching the tip of their top potential, and these five could end up breaking out in a big way in 2021.

In a way, 2019 was a perfect example of how the San Francisco 49ers benefited from not just some of their star players making big contributions that year, but also from a number of less-known or up-and-coming players showing up.

And when those things culminate, making it to the Super Bowl certainly isn’t out of the question.

Perhaps the best example in the latter category that year was running back Raheem Mostert, who after primarily being a special teams ace and backup rusher, boasted a career-high 952 all-purpose yards in 2019 and led the Niners with 10 touchdowns.

Few probably saw that coming.

Heading into 2021 and with last year’s injury-plagued season in the rearview mirror, San Francisco will be hoping for some additional breakout campaigns.

Particularly from these five players, who could make massive leaps in their respective careers.

49ers Breakout Candidate No. 5: Defensive Tackle Javon Kinlaw

The 49ers’ first of two first-round NFL Draft picks from a year ago, defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, might be classified as having a disappointing season in 2020, netting only three tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks.

Yet there were flashes of brilliance, and it’s also important to acknowledge Kinlaw didn’t have the benefit of a fully healthy defensive line, missing EDGEs Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, while also being one of many rookies who probably could have used a regular offseason program that included minicamps and organized team activities, both of which were scrapped because of the pandemic.

NFL Network’s Brian Baldinger was one of many, however, who felt Kinlaw would take a massive leap in year two of his pro career, and Kinlaw is now getting that refining work in advance of training camp.

The hope will be for this added coaching to help him polish his technique and pair it with his already demonstrated power.

If this all pans out, look for Kinlaw to go from a scuffling former Round 1 draft pick into a legitimate pocket-wrecking force.