Is there such a thing as a can’t-miss prospect in the NFL?
In the long history of the league, there’s a long list of acclaimed college stars – taken at the top of the annual draft – who flopped. Attitude, injuries, desire, chemistry with a coaching staff, overrated athletic ability, the wrong system and faulty technique are among the factors that have spelled doom for prospects who were supposed to be consequential pros.
Yet some talent evaluators every now and then see a player who stands far above the rest, a true can’t-miss talent.
To Pro Football Hall of Fame talent evaluator Gil Brandt, 49ers’ first-round pick Javon Kinlaw is in that category.
Brandt, who helped the Dallas Cowboys succeed in almost three decades as an executive and talent scout, says Kinlaw, a defensive tackle from South Carolina, is a rarity.
“He does not have a weakness on a grade that you use to evaluate players with,” Brandt told the SF Chronicle. “That’s unusual. I mean, Jerry Rice had a weakness. He wasn’t a good blocker. Very few guys have no weaknesses at all and, in my estimation, he (Kinlaw), he has no weaknesses at all.”
Kinlaw has some big shoes to fill, in that he’ll be replacing standout defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, who was traded to Indianapolis. But the 49ers believe he has the drive and talent to become as good as Buckner. San Francisco selected Kinlaw No. 14 overall after he had a 12-game season at South Carolina in which he had 35 tackles and six sacks (from the interior). In college, he often was positioned at nose tackle, so much of his responsibility was to clog the middle and occupy multiple blockers. With the 49ers, he’ll most often be deployed off the center and will have more opportunities to use his agility and strength to make plays.
At the Senior Bowl, Kinlaw dominated in practices against the best college players.
Said Kinlaw: “I just wanted to show these people what I’d been doing all year. There was nothing new to me. I knew what time it was. When I stepped on that practice field, I just had to show everybody else what time it was.”