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PFF’s 2020 re-draft has 49ers passing on Javon Kinlaw for cornerback help

Jun 22, 2022 at 2:12 PM--

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Fans like to play "What If," wondering what things might be like had their favorite team opted for a different choice at a pivotal moment. Fans aren't the only ones, though. Take former San Francisco 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt, now with the Philadelphia Eagles, for instance. His missed interception of a Matthew Stafford pass intended for receiver Van Jefferson in the NFC title game might have sent the Niners back to the Super Bowl for the second time in three years.

"That's a play I should make in my sleep, and I didn't make it," Tartt said after the game. "... I know that was a big play in the game, a big opportunity for me and for the team, and as a player, I just feel like I let my brothers down."

Had Tartt made the play, maybe the 49ers win their sixth championship, and perhaps the safety, a postseason hero, would have remained on the team.

Pro Football Focus conducted its own "What If," revisiting the 2020 NFL Draft and examining what teams might do back then if armed with what they know today. San Francisco drafted defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the No. 14 overall pick that year. After recording 1.5 sacks during his rookie season, he appeared in just four games in 2021 before undergoing season-ending knee surgery.

With the draft re-do, Pro Football Focus has the 49ers going in another direction with the No. 14 pick, selecting cornerback L'Jarius Sneed instead of Kinlaw. In our own reality, the Kansas City Chiefs selected Sneed in the fourth round.

"Sneed is the type of versatile defensive back who would fit nicely into San Francisco's defense," explains analyst Ben Linsey. "Looking at the 2022 roster, he could fill K'Waun Williams' nickel role, where he's allowed just an 82.3 passer rating into his coverage as an explosive, bigger nickel and willing run defender. That's the direction that the position is trending with offenses moving bigger bodies into the slot.

"Sneed can also play on the outside, though. His 74.4 PFF grade from outside alignments over the last two seasons is a top-20 mark among all cornerbacks who have played at least 400 snaps in such alignments. This might seem early for Sneed to come off the board, but he's been one of the more underrated players in this draft class."

Kinlaw wasn't the 49ers' only first-round pick in 2020. The team also drafted wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk with the No. 25 overall pick. However, this re-draft has the New Orleans Saints selecting Aiyuk at No. 24. As a result, Linsey has San Francisco adding offensive line help with the selection of offensive lineman Robert Hunt, who was actually a second-round pick by the Miami Dolphins.

"The right guard spot was a question mark for San Francisco entering the 2020 season and that remains the case entering two years later," wrote Linsey. "Hunt started at right tackle as a rookie before kicking inside to right guard in 2021. He's been one of the more stable pieces on the Dolphins' offensive line — earning PFF grades above 65.0 in both years — and that positional flexibility would be intriguing for the 49ers.

"Daniel Brunskill (48.2 PFF pass-blocking grade in 2021) returns as the favorite to start at right guard in 2022, and Mike McGlinchey is working his way back from a quad tear and set to play next season on his fifth-year option."

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