NFL Network ranked the top-25 rookies that are set up for the best success in 2020. Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk were ranked in the same category, under “big opportunity, big payoff.” Aiyuk was ranked No. 16.:
16) Brandon Aiyuk, WR, San Francisco 49ers: Aiyuk’s not the most polished route runner, but John Lynch didn’t trade up for this fella in Round 1 to sit him on the bench. On the heels of Deebo Samuel’s success as a rookie in the Niners’ offense, Aiyuk is next in line as another YAC demon who’ll make Kyle Shanahan’s heart sing. The former Sun Devil averaged 10.9 yards after the catch in 2019, according to PFF. To put that in context, the Power Five average was 5.5! He has the toughness and explosiveness to thrive in San Francisco.
That yards after the catch number drives home the point of how perfect of a fit Aiyuk is for the 49ers offense. If you get the ball in his hands, he’s going to make someone miss, and there’s a good chance he turns a short pass into an explosive play.
Kinlaw came in at No. 14 on the list:
14) Javon Kinlaw, DT, San Francisco 49ers: The Niners traded Pro Bowl DT DeForest Buckner away and will replace him by plugging in one of the draft’s most dominant defenders to one of the league’s most talented defensive lines. Is this fair? No! But it happened. Playing alongside Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford, Kinlaw should see plenty of favorable matchups inside, and with further development of his pass-rush moves, he should take full advantage of them. If you don’t think this 6-5, 324-pound hulk is going to have Robert Saleh losing his mind with glee, you’re kidding yourself.
Alex Rollins did a fantastic job as always in his latest video on Kinlaw. To me, Kinlaw has a chance to develop into an even better player than Buckner considering their circumstances. Buckner was the better player coming out of college. Kinlaw arguably has a higher ceiling. The difference with Kinlaw is he’ll hit the ground running with Nick Bosa, the best version of Arik Armstead, Dee Ford, and D.J. Jones. Also, Kinlaw will have the Kris Kocurek teaching him. Buckner wasn’t afforded these luxuries.
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