The 49ers have dipped into the South Carolina talent pool many times over the past decade of drafts.
Last year, the pick of wide receiver Deebo Samuel in Round 2 proved terrific, with the former Gamecocks standout excelling as the season progressed.
In 2015, the 49ers selected South Carolina running back Mike Davis (Round 4) and tight end Rory Anderson (Round 7), after taking wideout Bruce Ellington (Round 4) the previous year. San Francisco also came up with running back Marcus Lattimore (Round 4, 2013) and cornerback Chris Culliver (Round 3, 2011).
So, South Carolina’s program and athletes are definitely on the 49ers’ radar as the April 23 NFL draft approaches.
Now it’s possible the 49ers could take another Gamecock, perhaps in the first round.
Though wide receiver, cornerback and the offensive line appear to be the team’s biggest positions of need, Peter King of NBC’s Football Morning in America website is hearing the Niners have significant interest in South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with their No. 1 pick, the 13th in the first round.
Writes King: “Another defensive lineman in the first round?!! This sounds crazy, and maybe it is, after all the first-round defensive-line capital the Niners have used up. (Consider Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, Solomon Thomas, Nick Bosa in the last five drafts.) But I hear the Niners are desperate for a space-eating defensive tackle who can threaten the pocket, and that’s what the 315-pound and athletic Kinlaw does.”
Kinlaw actually was reported at 324 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame at the NFL Combine in February. He was a first-team All-America choice in 2019 after a season of 35 tackles and six sacks. In 2018 he was the Gamecocks’ Defensive MVP, with 38 tackles (10 for loss) and 4.5 sacks.
Certainly, Kinlaw could be a massive anchor in the middle of the defensive line, and perhaps free the likes of Bosa, Armstead and Dee Ford to make plays on the edge.
But, with all the excellent prospects at wide receiver in this draft, that still seems like the direction the 49ers are most likely to go with pick No. 13.