Following the Rookies: NFC West San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers early picks have looked to be some of the best in the league. With their two 1st rounders; one from their trade with the Indianapolis Colts for Deforest Buckner; they took Javon Kinlaw who realistically is the player that they expected to replace Buckner, and Brandon Aiyuk, the Wide Receiver who they expected to take over their WR2 role behind Deebo Samuel.
Aiyuk started the season by missing week 1 due to a hamstring injury but has been exactly what the 49ers wanted ever since. In six games he has 20 receptions on 32 targets for 280 yards and 1 touchdown, while also carrying the ball 4 times for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns. Aiyuk is at his best in space, with the ball in his hands, as shown by his 116 yards after the catch. He also averages 17.25 yards per carry with a touchdown on every other of his carries. He has shown that he can be a fantastic compliment in the passing game to George Kittle and Deebo Samuel as well as an explosive asset in the run game. His highlight play of the year came against the Philadelphia Eagles where he took a screen pass for a 38 yard touchdown. He showed off his elite athleticism on a hurdle over an Eagles defender to get into the endzone. Aiyuk's fit into the 49ers offense could not be any better as he is a tough, explosive runner who is at his best after the catch.
Javon Kinlaw has played in all 7 games this year, starting in 5 of them, where he ranges from 48%-76% of defensive snaps played. He has recorded 15 total tackles (7 solo/8 assisted), 1 QB hit, and 3 passes defended on top of 4 hurries and 5 pressures. Kinlaw has yet to record his first sack but the 5 pressures is much more important. Deforest Buckner has 11 pressures and 2.5 sacks which looks a lot better on paper, but the 49ers were not expecting the injuries they have had so far this year with Nick Bosa, Soloman Thomas, and Dee Ford who are all either missing significant time or the entire year. This has led to teams putting more focus on to Kinlaw to stop and contain him as a pass rusher. I don't think we will see the true potential of Kinlaw until next year when this defensive front 7 gets healthy and they will become unstoppable. Kinlaw is a long, freaky athlete who has shown that he is more of a speed rushing defensive tackle while also showing a good amount of power to stand his ground and create pressure from up the middle to help counter the outside pressure that we can expect consistently from Dee Ford and Nick Bosa. The rest of this year will allow Kinlaw to grow his arsenal of pass rush moves as well as continue to get comfortable with the speed at which the NFL is played. The future is very bright for this 49ers team who has found two very good players in the 1st round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
*All stats are found from and attributed to pro football reference.