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49ers 90-in-90: Will Kinlaw exceed expectations as a rookie?

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is DT Javon Kinlaw

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 27 Tennessee at South Carolina Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This time last year, Javon Kinlaw was a relative unknown at South Carolina. After his junior season, he had nine tackles for loss, five batted passes, and four sacks. After a dominant 2019, Kinlaw was named a first-team All-American by the Associated Press. Kinlaw had all kinds of awards. From making the first-team All-SEC by the coaches to winning the unselfish teammate award and tenacity award at South Carolina.

Kinlaw enters his rookie season with big shoes to fill. There is no replacing defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, but the comparisons statistically will be inevitable for the former Gamecock. Is that fair? Of course not, but we know that’s how it’ll be. I guarantee every national TV game will feature a graphic or name drop comparing the two. Kinlaw doesn’t have to replace Buckner, but he does have to be productive. He’s fortunate enough to come into a defense that’s loaded, particularly the defensive line.

Basic Info

Age: 22 (turns 23 October 3)

Experience: Rookie

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 324 pounds

Cap Status

Over the Cap only has Kinlaw’s 2020 base salary, which is $610,000. Kinlaw’s total contract value is $15.4 million, and he’ll average $3.8 annually during his rookie contract.

What to expect in 2020

Speaking of DeFo, Kinlaw’s rookie year should be better as he is surrounded by better talent than Buckner was. I’m expecting Kinlaw to blow site decorum up. Kinlaw will be the definition of “disruption is production.” He may not have the eye-popping tackles for loss or sack numbers, but his teammates will be the beneficiary.

That doesn’t mean Kinlaw won’t make plays. Alex Rollins had a great video breaking down Kinlaw’s strengths, and he shows how much better he was than the rest of the interior defensive line class. Dre Greenlaw believes Kinlaw can be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. Whether you’re his teammate or have watched him in-depth, you know Kinlaw is far from just a player that will be limited to a “disruptor.” There are too many examples of Kinlaw, against top competition and overwhelming college offensive linemen, specifically centers. Where is the one area the 49ers can use a pass-rusher? Good guess, right up the middle.

An ideal scenario on obvious passing downs would be Nick Bosa and Dee Ford on the edge, with Arik Armstead at three-technique and Kinlaw rushing from up the middle. That is going to guarantee Kinlaw 1-on-1’s. As powerful and quick as Kinlaw is, rookie or not, I’m putting money on Kinlaw. Is he a better prospect coming out than Buckner? He isn’t. Going into a better situation, however, will accelerate Kinlaw’s development. Because of that, Kinlaw is bound to exceed expectations as a rookie.