The 49ers traded away DeForest Buckner this past Spring
When this offseason hit, questions marks were being brought up as to who are the 49ers going to pay: Arik Armstead or DeForest Buckner? The 49ers ended up giving the extension to Armstead, shipping away Buckner this offseason to the Indianapolis Colts for the 13th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The 49ers gave up an All-Pro type player for a first-round pick, and on top of all of that is the San Francisco 49ers actually may have won this trade. The 49ers ended up drafting South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw with the 14th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft after he Buccaneers traded up one spot with the 49ers to get Tristian Wirfs.
Someone that I highly respect when it comes to grading players is Hall-of-Fame executive Gil Brandt states that “He does not have a weakness on a grade that you use to evaluate players with,” Brandt said to Eric Branch of 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 has no weakness at all.”
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Kinlaw spent the last three seasons with the South Carolina Gamecocks but did not have his break out season until his senior season. Kinlaw racked up ten career sacks, but six of those were during his senior season. Branch said the reason why Kinlaw struggled early in his career was his detailed breakdown of the rookie.
Kinlaw spent most of his time at nose tackle with the Gamecocks. The nose tackle position is a harder position to rack up stats and the player’s job is to occupy blockers and fill gaps more than it is to record sacks and tackles, like in other positions.
If Kinlaw is a flawless prospect, as Brandt believes he is, the 49ers may not have wait long to find a replacement on the defensive line. Buckner was playing someone where around 800 snaps during the regular season, so it will be interesting to see if Kinlaw can match that number. Could Kinlaw come in week one of his rookie year and find success? We will have to wait and see.
Having college prospects translate their talents to the NFL isn’t as easy as just evaluating their talents. Kinlaw was not just good, he was dominant for South Carolina, and on top of that Kinlaw has a rare combination of size and athleticism.
There are plenty of offensive linemen that can handle Kinlaw’s size, strength, length, and speed. If Kinlaw can not win by using his gifted abilities, he will have to find different ways to get into his opponent’s backfield. If he can, the 49ers will continue to have one of the best defenses in the NFL for a few years.