2020 NFL Draft: 49ers find DeForest Buckner replacement with Javon Kinlaw while adding another draft pick

Earlier this offseason, the San Francisco 49ers made the decision to send one of their top defensive stars to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the No. 13 overall pick. DeForest Buckner had been a fixture on San Francisco’s defensive front over the past few seasons, but the 49ers didn’t wait long to find a replacement for him.  After trading down one spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 49ers selected interior defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw out of South Carolina with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. 

As CBS NFL Draft writer Chris Trapasso noted in his defensive line class breakdown last month, Kinlaw really is in a class by himself among linemen in this class. At 6-foot-5 and 324 pounds with long arms, an incredible first step, stunning burst-to-power and counters off his awesome bull rush — he checks all the boxes trait-wise. 

In addition to acquiring an extra draft pick from trading down to select Kinlaw, they also found a replacement for Buckner at a much cheaper rate. The beauty of the Kinlaw pick is that San Francisco gets to have him on a four-year rookie contract for pennies compared to the four-year, $84 million contract Buckner signed with the Colts.

In three seasons at South Carolina, Kinlaw recorded 82 total tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Last season, he was named First-Team All-SEC after recording a career-high 35 total tackles, six tackles for loss and six sacks. 

The 49ers had the best defensive line in the NFL last season, and it’s a big reason they made it all the way to Super Bowl LIV. Nick Bosa and Co. clearly want to maintain that reputation heading into 2020, and the 49ers were able to do that with their very first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Kinlaw has been through a lot in his life, as he grew up homeless for a time and found a new lease on life through football. He also dealt with adversity early on in the draft process, as his Senior Bowl was cut short due to a knee injury. Kinlaw had a case of knee tendinitis and wanted to be careful in how he rehabbed as he was expected to be a first-round pick. Now, he gets to join a loaded group that is fresh off of a Super Bowl appearance. 

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