The 2020 NFL Draft feels like a lifetime ago for Javon Kinlaw. The 49ers moved DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the 13th overall pick. Moving down one more spot to 14, which paved the way for the Brandon Aiyuk selection, the 49ers selected Kinlaw to replace Buckner at the same position.
The “one for one” outlook of the pick is the first issue to arise with Kinlaw. The expectations were set to replace Buckner’s production and presence almost immediately. Buckner was incredible as a 49er, so that would be no easy feat. Kinlaw is a victim of his draft capital.
Coming out of South Carolina, Kinlaw’s knee drew concern with a diagnosis of tendinitis and possible chronic arthritis. Kinlaw’s first season was relatively healthy. Missing just two games and flashing his potential led to optimism headed into year two.
The rest of the story is littered with setbacks and injuries, unfortunately. While injuries are out of a player’s control, the bottom line is the NFL is a results-driven business.
Once viewed as a cornerstone defensive lineman, Kinlaw figures to be a rotational player in 2023. Injuries are the biggest culprit, but Kinlaw has this season to prove he can stay on the field and be productive.
Experience: 3 accrued seasons
Weight: 319 lbs.
Kinlaw signed a four-year, $15,488,692 contract, including an $8,824,504 signing bonus, $15,488,692 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $3,872,173. In 2023, Kinlaw will earn a base salary of $2,722,094, while carrying a cap hit of $4,928,220 and a dead cap value of $4,928,220, according to Spotrac.
The 49ers declined Kinlaw’s fifth-year option on April 29, 2023. It would have been worth 10.455 million dollars.
How he can improve in 2023
Obviously, being healthy is the biggest improvement, but pass rush is Kinlaw’s biggest on-field improvement. In 24 games played, Kinlaw has one and a half sacks in his career. Four pass defenses are impressive, but they all came in 2020.
With the amount of talent on the defensive line, Kinlaw could see advantageous situations as a pass rusher. He has to continue to grow in this area.
Where Kinlaw makes his mark
Kinlaw is a presence just based on his size. Run defense is where he excels and eats up space. Three tackles for loss in 2020 are evidence. With the depth on the defensive line, Kinlaw can prove to be a force in the run game.