The San Francisco 49ers have a big hole to fill after trading away Deforest Buckner! Did they find that answer for 2020 and beyond? Here’s who it is and why they will roll with the rookie!
It’s that time of year when rookies are all the rage. The NFL draft is complete, we know where everyone landed and fantasy owners are consumed with rookie drafts. Now what we all want to know is how each rookie fits in with their new team and what role they have with their team. While every team looks ahead to the future, some of them roll with the rookies right away. We continue our roll with the rookie series by taking a closer look at the San Francisco 49ers, to see which rookies they may roll with as day one starters.
The San Francisco 49ers have an opening at the defensive tackle position. They need to fill it after they traded away superstar Deforest Buckner, to the Indianapolis Colts. With Buckner gone, there is an immediate opening on a Super Bowl contending team. The 49ers came up just short in last year’s big game and are looking to return this year with the expectation to win. When you’re a team in the win-now window, you don’t just plug just anyone into an opening. Especially not a rookie, unless that rookie checks all the boxes. Luckily for San Francisco, they found a stud that checks those boxes.
The San Francisco 49ers drafted defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw from South Carolina, in the 1st round with the 14th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. This was the pick they received from the Colts in return for Deforest Buckner. Kinlaw was graded by most as the top defensive tackle in this class. While his numbers aren’t eye-popping, all you need to do is turn on the game film to see the impact he has on a game. A perfect example would be the Alabama game last year as well as his efforts at the Senior Bowl. It’s in the film that you will see the constant double and sometimes even triple teams that he commanded. This frees things up for his teammates to make plays.
Kinlaw is one of the best interior defensive line prospects to enter the NFL in recent years. His strength and power are elite and NFL game ready now. With his non-stop motor and football IQ, it would be hard not to roll with the rookie as a starter. His power and strength cause major problems and nightmares in one-on-one situations, as he can easily out-power them. Even when double-teamed he still wins his fair share of the match-ups. Kinlaw’s game just isn’t all about power, as he does an excellent job of timing snaps. He has an extremely quick burst off the snap that instantly puts would-be blockers in a panic mode. He has all the tools needed to be an All-Pro in the league for a very long time.
Senior stats: 12 games, 35 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, 6 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 2 fumble recoveries
Why do I think San Francisco will roll with the rookie?
There are two reasons why I think that San Francisco will roll with the rookie and outside of his elite talent, they are the most important. Remember earlier I told you that they created this opening by trading away DeForest Buckner and then used the draft pick they got in return for him, to draft Kinlaw. The creation of this opening wasn’t a talent issue but a cap related one. The payday that Buckner was headed for was more than what the 49ers likely wanted to pay and also helps create some relief for the future. Combine that with the high draft capital (1st round pick) they used to draft Kinlaw, then it makes perfect sense to roll with the rookie.
When looking at the rest of the 49er’s roster, there isn’t a lot to be excited about or that could challenge Kinlaw for the starting job. They have Solomon Thomas who has been a big disappointment so far, DJ Jones who has been nothing more than a backup, and roster fillers Julian Taylor and Henry Willie. As you can see they don’t have any viable options that they can rely on to be a starter. Plus they didn’t draft anyone else besides Kinlaw at the position, so it’s a clear sign that San Francisco will roll with the rookie.
What does this mean in the fantasy football world? It means he will be a starter from day one. For owners who play in position-specific leagues, that is huge. Rarely do rookie interior defensive linemen make an early impact, but the team’s need, the early draft capital they spent on him, and Kinlaw’s talent, makes him a rarity. His biggest value will come in leagues where defensive tackles receive a scoring premium. I expect him to produce a good number of sacks from the interior which is very valuable to fantasy owners. I would place an early grade of DT2 value on Kinlaw right now, but that could be the floor for him going forward. If you need help at defensive tackle then Kinlaw is definitely the rookie to roll with!
In rookie drafts, Kinlaw will cost you a mid-round pick if you intend on drafting him. In my current IDP rookie draft database, he is being selected as the first defensive tackle off the board and at an average of 45th overall. That places his draft value somewhere in the late 3rd round to early 4th round of most rookie drafts. Honestly, I love that value for a potential starter at defensive tackle. As a comparison, Kinlaw is being drafted just three spots behind fellow rookie Derrick Brown (42nd). I would target Kinlaw in the 4th round and adjust as needed. If rookie IDP’s begin to come off the board sooner than expected, especially Derrick Brown, then be prepared to take him a little earlier.