While NFL Draft pundits and fans alike can give instant reactions to their team's player selections, it's easy to forget that the true value of the picks cannot be fully assessed until after a couple of seasons. Some players become instant starters (Deebo Samuel) while others remain a work in progress (Solomon Thomas). Having said that, I want to pull out the receipts on what draft analysts were saying prior to the draft, along with their player comparisons. With the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft now in the books, let's review what various scouting outlets were saying about the 49ers' first-round picks. The San Francisco 49ers traded the 13th pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for the 14th and 117th pick. San Francisco subsequently selected South Carolina defensive tackle, Javon Kinlaw.


NFL Player Comparison: Michael Brockers, Chris Jones, Richard Seymour

Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Kinlaw as a 'high-upside starter' in his 2020 NFL Draft Guide:

Kinlaw aces the eye test with his massive frame and shows the length and initial burst to win quickly, using his immediate momentum to put blockers on their heels and create movement. Although his upright playing style can be a detriment, especially when attempting to break down in small areas, he has a ready-made body type and his height helps create clear sight lines to the football. Overall, Kinlaw won't live up to his draft spot if he doesn't improve his consistency from a technical standpoint, but his combination of length, raw power and gap quickness creates flashes of Kansas City Chiefs' Chris Jones, projecting as a high-upside NFL starter.

NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein sees Kinlaw as a 'solid starter early in his career':

For a player with so many elite physical traits, Kinlaw's tape was much more inconsistent than expected. 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. He can be a disruptive force along the interior with that explosive first step and freaky physical gifts, but utilizing his heavy hands and plus length as a read-and-react 3-4 end might allow for improved technique, control and consistency. No matter the front, Kinlaw's traits and potential could make him a solid starter early in his career.

ESPN Scout Inc.'s Draft profile of Kinlaw gave him a 92 grade as a 'plug-and-play NFL starter with upside':

Kinlaw possesses a powerful upper body to lock out as a run defender, and he has very good range as a run defender. Because he is very tall, he struggles to keep leverage while engaged, and will struggle to anchor when his pad level gets too high. Kinlaw fits best in a one-gap heavy scheme. He is at his best when active as a run defender, and he has upside as a pass-rusher. Keeping his weight in check and continuing to improve his counter moves will be important to his NFL development. Kinlaw is a plug-and-play NFL starter with upside.

Danny Kelly of the Ringer appreciates the versatility of Kinlaw:

A versatile defensive lineman with excellent length, strength, and get-off; consistently creates havoc in the backfield no matter where he lines up

Overall, Kinlaw comes off as a safe pick in a defensive tackle with the upside to get better rushing the passer. Like any NFL prospect, he needs to refine his technique but has ideal physical traits; it seems like the real X-factor upon his development will be his consistency. The San Francisco 49ers traded away DeForest Buckner and get his replacement in Kinlaw along with the 117th pick in what should be deemed as a cost-effective approach to managing their roster. They strengthen a strength by reinforcing the interior of the line. Out of last year's defensive starters, 10 of the 11 in the starting lineup return for 2020; Kinlaw looks to be the lone new starter if all goes well.
  • Justin Wong
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    Justin Wong has been writing for the 49ers Webzone since 2017 while also running an NFC West blog and podcast called Just The West. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to @JustTheWest on Twitter.