Top Pick Kinlaw May Thrive in 49ers' System

With coaching and solid atmosphere, first-round selection could be better as a pro

Javon Kinlaw #3 of the South Carolina Gamecocks
Getty Images

In pro football, chemistry often is as important as biology. A talented athlete drafted by a team that doesn’t help him develop – that doesn’t give him the right atmosphere and coaching – can fail.

A player who isn’t used properly can become useless.

So, just because the 49ers used their highest of two first-round picks on highly-rated South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw doesn’t mean Kinlaw will succeed.

Yet to one NFL analyst, Kinlaw appears to have landed in exactly the right environment to succeed in 2020 and beyond. Matt Bowen of this week included Kinlaw in a list of 10 drafted rookies who landed with organizations perfect for their use and development.

Kinlaw should be able to work his way into a lineup of talented defensive linemen in place of DeForest Buckner, the terrific former No. 1 pick who was traded to the Colts – for the pick used to select Kinlaw.

Wrote Bowen: “While the South Carolina product doesn’t have the same fluid ability of veteran DeForest Buckner … I look at Kinlaw’s combination of linear burst and power in San Francisco’s multiple fronts. That’s where defensive coordinator Robert Saleh can scheme interior one-on-ones and use twist stunts to get Kinlaw in favorable pass-rush matchups. He’s an ascending talent who can develop into a force, and he’s a great fit in the middle of this loaded front seven.”

Kinlaw’s numbers in college weren’t eye-popping. This past season he had just six sacks and 35 tackles in 12 games. But he was a first-team Associated Press All-America selection and was at times physically dominating. Niners GM John Lynch said Kinlaw had his best games against the best teams, such as Alabama and Georgia. That told him Kinlaw was something special. analyst Lance Zierlein suggests Kinlaw is still raw in many facets of his game and could rapidly improve with quality coaching – which the 49ers have.

“He had moments where he was able to use his size, length and power to overwhelm opponents, but poor pad level and an inability to harness his energy coming off the snap led to body-control and balance issues that prevented him from reaching his full potential,” wrote Zierlein.

So, it’s possible Kinlaw could reach a much higher level of play as an NFL rookie.

Contact Us