Why 49ers' Javon Kinlaw can, can't win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year

Why 49ers' Javon Kinlaw can, can't win NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year

No team has had two consecutive AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year winners.

Could the 49ers become the first?

Edge rusher Nick Bosa, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, won the award last season after recording 9.0 sacks in the regular season. Pro Football Focus' Anthony Treash pinpointed 49ers defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, the No. 14 pick in 2020, as having the fifth-best chance to win the award this season.

"Javon Kinlaw is joining one of the best pass-rush units in the entire NFL in San Francisco," Treash wrote. "If he develops his repertoire of pass-rushing moves, he has the chance to put up outlier-type numbers for a rookie interior defensive lineman."

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Kinlaw’s limited set of moves didn’t hinder him at South Carolina, where he won a higher percentage of pass rushes (18.8 percent) than any player in the FBS in 2019, according to Treash. The D-lineman’s 90.7 pass-rush grade was also third-best at college football’s highest level last season.

That kind of ability makes it clear why 49ers players, coaches and executives think Kinlaw will seamlessly fit along the 49ers’ defensive line. The 49ers wouldn’t have been able to select Kinlaw had they not traded defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts at the beginning of the offseason, and Kinlaw has the potential to be an ideal replacement.

Still, the 22-year-old will face stiff competition for Rookie of the Year. Washington edge rusher Chase Young, Bosa’s fellow Ohio State Buckeye who was taken No. 2 overall last month, figures to be the favorite. Treash called Young “the best non-quarterback prospect we have ever seen” in PFF’s decade-plus of existence, “even above” Bosa. Young set PFF’s pass-rushing grade record (96.4) in 2019.

[RELATED: How 49ers lucked out on 2020 schedule compared to 2019]

Kinlaw will have enough on his plate trying to replace Buckner, so the 49ers will be happy with his development if he proves capable of doing so as a rookie.

Any personal hardware would be an added bonus.

How Jalen Hurd's physicality has stood out to 49ers' Raheem Mostert

How Jalen Hurd's physicality has stood out to 49ers' Raheem Mostert

Jalen Hurd only played in the preseason last year before a back injury ultimately cut short his rookie season, but the 49ers wide receiver nonetheless flashed intriguing potential with a two-touchdown performance against the Dallas Cowboys.

But Hurd's potential as a blocker is what most excites 49ers running back Raheem Mostert.

"[He's] gonna go out there and he's gonna put his all, especially with what I've seen these past couple years when he's been healthy," Mostert said of Hurd on Wednesday when he was asked about the 49ers' big receivers and their blocking ability. "Going out there, and trying to de-cleat somebody. That's inspiring in itself as a running back because you know that he's gonna do his job to the best of his ability, and he's gonna put his body out there on the line. Why not do the same as a runner?"

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Listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, Hurd certainly has the measurables to be an effective run blocker. He also played running back at Tennessee before transitioning to wide receiver when he transferred to Baylor, checking the important "positional versatility" box for coach Kyle Shanahan.

The 49ers spoke openly of how much they value blocking contributions from skill-position players all along the way to Super Bowl LIV, and the role their wide receivers and tight ends played in San Francisco rushing for more yards (2,305) than any team but the Baltimore Ravens in the regular season. Shanahan said George Kittle set the tone in that regard.

“I mean, he had more yards in the pass game as a tight end in the history of the NFL [in 2018],” Shanahan said of the tight end in January. “So, any time you have a guy like that who's one of the best players on your team who's always just talking about running the ball and playing the physicality in the game and giving everything you can, it helps you hold everyone else a lot more accountable, and rarely do you have to."

[RELATED: Mostert knew he would remain with 49ers 'no matter what']

Can Hurd provide similar value during his first full NFL season in 2020? He has the size, and Mostert believes Hurd definitely has the skills.

"It's nice to see those guys out there coming back, especially Jalen, because he is a bigger receiver and he's more physical," Mostert continued. "He's one of -- probably the most physical receiver I've seen, tape-wise and even going out there practicing. It's nice to see him back."

Raheem Mostert knew he would remain with 49ers despite trade request

Raheem Mostert knew he would remain with 49ers despite trade request

After bursting onto the scene with a tremendous stretch during the latter portion of the 49ers' 2019 season, Raheem Mostert didn't have the offseason he expected coming off the field after San Francisco's loss in Super Bowl LIV.

The coronavirus pandemic put a wrench into everyone's plans, and Mostert had to think long and hard about whether he would play this coming season -- which, he will. But beyond that, he sought a salary increase commensurate with his level of production as compared to the other running backs on the roster. Mostert lacked leverage in contract negotiations with the team, though, and ultimately requested a trade.

That request wasn't received kindly by general manager John Lynch, but eventually was rescinded after the 49ers re-worked his contract with incentives that could significantly increase his 2020 salary. Mostert spoke with reporters Wednesday, and in addition to expressing his desire to prove last season was not a flash in the pan, he provided some additional context behind the contract negotiations (h/t 49ers Web Zone).

"It was long, and (there were) difficulties," Mostert explained. "But in the end, we were able to sit down and have communication, and it's a blessing to be here. It's one of those things where I knew it was going to be right regardless of how it played out. I knew that, in the end, it was going to be all right, and I was still going to be a Niner no matter what."

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From that, it would appear Mostert knew the reality of the situation, and despite issuing a formal trade request, he never actually believed it would amount to him being moved. In relating the disagreement, Mostert compared the back-and-forth to brotherly love.

"This is a family, and we all understand that," he continued. "As you can see, what we've been through these past three, four years with the organization, going 6-10, then the following year, 4-12, and then the Super Bowl run last year, it just tells you that this is a family-based organization.

"We all really pride ourselves on being family. What family doesn't have those problems? I argue with my little brother. It's one of those things where I argue with him, but I also love him at the same time. That's what's going on here.

"We eventually got it fixed, and like I said, it's a blessing, and I'm glad to be here."

[RELATED: McKinnon gives Jimmy G another option in 49ers' offense]

Though the odds were always in favor of Mostert remaining with San Francisco, there's no question both he and the 49ers are better off having worked things out. If all goes as they hope, both sides will be more than happy with the result.