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Face It 49ers, Kinlaw Isn’t Ready for the NFL

Gilbert Brink
Aug 31, 2020 at 7:17 AM


Again, the 49ers drafted a 1st-round defensive lineman that isn't ready to contribute. His name is Javon Kinlaw. Just like Solomon Thomas in 2017, Kinlaw has done little to impress in his first training camp. Kinlaw was selected 14th in the 2020 draft to fill the gap left by the trade that helped acquire him (sending DeForest Buckner to the Colts for the 13th overall pick). If early results are any indication, the 49ers may have another high first round pick who struggles to contribute.

Prior to the 49ers drafting Kinlaw, the word on him was that he was a raw prospect who relied heavily on size and athleticism to win on the college level. Training camp is drawing to a close and thus far these reports have been accurate and concerning. If the 49ers have one clear area of weakness it is the interior offensive line. Though it has been a brief camp, Kinlaw has been almost entirely ineffective against this weak unit. For starters, the 49ers' 1st- and 2nd-string centers are unavailable, leaving their prospective starting right guard, Daniel Brunskill, to fill in at center. This leaves a hole in that position, which has been filled by journeyman Tom Compton and rookie Colton McKivitz. The 49ers also brought in center Hroniss Grasu off the street for a backup role. A pedestrian collection, and yet even against this lower quality competition Kinlaw's production has been deafeningly quiet. Kinlaw himself would tell you he isn't good. In fact, he did just that, saying, "I'd be lying if I thought it was good." When Kinlaw wasn't being bested by journeymen and rookies, he was being completely dominated by LG Laken Tomlinson, a legitimately good player. Imagine what life will be like for Kinlaw when he faces top tier talent. Yikes.

Kinlaw's failures aren't the only reason to be concerned. The successes of other 49ers interior linemen only further highlight Kinlaw's struggles. The first pick of the Shanahan/Lynch regime, perennial under-achiever Solomon Thomas, is earning praise from the coaching staff for his standout performance in camp. Fellow lineman Kentavius Street has impressed with his strength. 49ers fans already know that DT DJ Jones can be a beast and they may have won a Super Bowl in February if he was on the field to help stop the run. Quite simply the 49ers seem to have the players necessary to fill the gap left by DeForest Buckner. It's just that none of those players are named Javon Kinlaw. A Super Bowl ready team has to put the best talent on the field, and there is no time for learning on the job. Sorry Javon.

None of this sounds good for Javon Kinlaw's chances of making an impact in 2020. It also doesn't mean that Kinlaw is destined to be a bad player. A promising attribute of Kinlaw is his humility. Kinlaw accepts his shortcomings and is eager to improve. Kinlaw was a draft crush, not of head coach Kyle Shanahan, but of defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Kocurek "sends us pictures of him every day, and I have to keep asking, 'Are you watching anyone else?'" said Shanahan when discussing why the 49ers drafted Kinlaw with their first selection. This 49ers regime has missed on draft crushes before. WR Dante Pettis was a draft crush, RB Joe Williams was a draft crush, and LB Rueben Foster was a draft crush as well. Kocurek became obsessed with Kinlaw's size and ability, as were others. Superstar DE Nick Bosa said, "He's one of the biggest humans I've ever seen in person, and that says a lot". It is now up to Kocurek to justify that obsession by turning all of that size and raw ability into a dominant defensive lineman. Let us not forget, the 49ers could have selected T Tristan Wirfs, WR Jerry Jeudy or WR Ceedee Lamb with their 13th overall pick, but they picked DT Javon Kinlaw, a player who isn't ready for the NFL.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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