49ers ‘bust’ risk No. 2: Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw
Like Aaron Banks, only stretched out over the period of two years, the story behind defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is well-known.
The 2020 first-round pick was expected to be at least an adequate replacement for Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, whom the Niners traded that same offseason and landed the Round 1 selection used on Kinlaw. And while Kinlaw had some splash moments his rookie year, including a pick-six interception late in the season, him registering only 1.5 sacks in 2020 didn’t exactly help his case among the fanbase when questioning whether or not San Francisco made the right decision to trade Buckner.
Even worse, Kinlaw dealt with knee issues in both years, which eventually required surgery after only four games in 2021. Despite his absence, the 49ers defensive line was nevertheless a potent unit.
With nose tackle D.J. Jones gone via free agency, though, Kinlaw will have a lot more attention on him this season than ever before. While he’s reportedly much healthier in the wake of his surgery and subsequent recovery, the production and prowess need to be there on the field.
If it isn’t, the Niners may be facing another Solomon Thomas-like situation again.