Brandon Aiyuk is the 49ers' first-round pick getting all the love in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 NFL Draft. That's easy to understand. He plays a sexy position and has unreal athletic ability that will fit perfectly in coach Kyle Shanahan's system.
But don't forget about Javon Kinlaw. The former South Carolina defensive tackle was a home run pick for the 49ers at No. 14 overall. At 6-foot-5, 311 pounds, Kinlaw is a physical freak with all the tools to be the next dominant 49ers defensive lineman. Hall of Fame executive Gil Brandt believes Kinlaw is a rare prospect who enters the NFL without a blemish on his game.
“He does not have a weakness on a grade that you use to evaluate players with,” Brandt told The San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch. “That’s unusual. I mean, Jerry Rice had a weakness (as a prospect) -- he wasn’t a good blocker. Very few guys have no weaknesses at all and, in my estimation, he has no weaknesses at all.”
Kinlaw will be under a lot of pressure immediately as the 49ers need him to help fill the void left by trading DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts. The 49ers are primed to win now and their return to the Super Bowl very well could rest on whether or not their defensive front can repeat their dominant season from a year ago.
It will be up to Kinlaw, as well as veterans like D.J. Jones, to help Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford recapture the unit's 2019 dominance.
Trading Buckner was a hard decision for the 49ers to stomach. But the rave reviews surrounding Kinlaw should have them excited to see their top pick take the field, knowing that stardom is in his future if everything goes according to plan.
As Brandt noted, very few players enter the league without a hole in their game. Even Derrick Brown, who was drafted at No. 7 by the Carolina Panthers and is seen as the most complete D-line prospect in years, needs to work on his short-area quickness at the next level. Brandt has been doing this for a long time and sees the potential for greatness in Kinlaw.
That bodes well both for the 49ers' 2020 Super Bowl hopes and their long-term future.
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