Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

Photo courtesy of the San Francisco 49ers

49ers’ Kyle Shanahan happy with Brandon Aiyuk and Javon Kinlaw, would draft them again

Dec 18, 2020 at 10:30 AM--

We're not too far removed from the 2020 NFL Draft, but if San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan had to do the first round again, he wouldn't change a thing.

San Francisco used its first selection, the No. 14 overall pick, on defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw. It used its second selection of the round, the No. 25 overall pick, to add wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. The two were expected to at least partially make up for the losses of veterans DeForest Buckner and Emmanuel Sanders.

It sounds like the 49ers coach is pretty happy with how things turned out.

"If we had to do everything over again, there would be zero hesitation with the same two guys," Shanahan said Friday morning on KNBR's Murph & Mac show. "Going into that draft, we didn't have many picks, and we pretty much had the same team returning, so we knew losing a guy like Buckner, and losing a guy like Emmanuel, two big-time players — but really, keeping the rest of our team, that was a very good team — we knew we had to hit on those guys, especially not having many other picks.

"To be able to hit on guys who are capable, coming in, and definitely not replacing those guys — you can't replace veterans like that right away — but they were guys who could come in and at least do the job, and guys that I know are going to get better each year because they're made of the right stuff."

Aiyuk has racked up 660 receiving yards, four receiving touchdowns, and two rushing scores. He has a chance to break Jerry Rice's team record for the most receiving yards by a rookie.

Kinlaw only has 1.5 sacks this season but has shown flashes of dominant play along the interior of an injury-ravaged defensive line.

"They've had a good rookie year. It's not done yet," Shanahan continued. "They need to make sure they finish out these three weeks, continue to get better, and I really look forward to them being part of the Niners for a long time because I know we've got the right guys."

With Buckner dominating in Indianapolis, there has been some debate about whether the 49ers made the right decision in trading him to the Colts. Kinlaw hasn't proven to be the same type of force inside, but was considered a raw prospect coming out of college.

Shanahan isn't too concerned about Kinlaw's low sack numbers. He knows the stats will come with time.

"You always want to see more of the sacks and stuff, but that's not totally how I judge people, especially early," Shanahan explained. "People get way too caught up in that stuff, I think. I mean, Buck's one of the best D-linemen in the league and having a very high year, but I think he only had [2.5] sacks until he got two (more) two weekends ago. So, it's not all about sacks. It's about how you wreck the game, the problems you cause inside, and that's why (interior) D-linemen usually don't get high sacks.

"Aaron Donald is kind of the exception to that. J.J. Watt was (too), at one time. Besides that, that's usually how inside players go, and the more he plays, the more his stats will get better. And the more we can get some of our edge rushers back next year, like [Nick Bosa], Dee Ford, and stuff, then you'll see, I think, a lot more production from everybody."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Shanahan below.

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