NFL clubs long for a young player to be able to step on to a roster and become an immediate contributor on the field. San Francisco witnessed several young players from their 2019 rookie class step up when needed last season.
Nick Bosa is a prime example of a game-changing rookie who became an instant asset from the moment he arrived in Santa Clara. The former No. 2 overall pick finished the regular season with nine sacks, 80 quarterback pressures, including 25 hits, and 16 tackles for loss to add to four additional sacks and 22 pressures in the 49ers three playoff games. Bosa, who was key in the 49ers postseason run, earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors following his historic first year campaign.
San Francisco is hopeful they have landed a similar type of high-impact talent in Javon Kinlaw. The defensive tackle was selected 14th-overall in this year's draft and is expected to immediately step into the vacancy left by DeForest Buckner this offseason. Second-year linebacker Dre Greenlaw is hopeful his fellow SEC counterpart can follow in Bosa's footsteps as another one of San Francisco's defensive standouts.
"It's going to be exciting to see his potential," Greenlaw said on a call with media on Wednesday. "I know the way that Bosa came and really showed his talent, I think Kinlaw can do the same thing and very well may be the Defensive Rookie of the Year. I think he has that potential. I'm going to be excited to be behind him and get the chance to play with him."
Kinlaw was regarded as one of the top interior defensive linemen in this year's draft. The former Gamecock amassed 10 sacks to add to 65 tackles, 15 for loss, seven passes defended and two forced fumbles over his final two seasons at South Carolina. He also earned first-team Associated Press All-America and first-team All-SEC honors during his 2019 season. Landing in one of the most-ideal situations to line up next to four first-round picks should service the rookie well in his transition to the NFL.
"I remember him from when I played him my junior year," Greenlaw continued. "He's an explosive big guy that can really move. He's going to be the perfect 3-Technique for us in the way that we play him."
Chris Trapasso of CBS Sports recently ranked his 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year candidates with Kinlaw landing at No. 5 on his list. According to Trapasso, he believes Kinlaw has the ability to be high-caliber contributor to San Francisco's already-stout defensive unit.
"Kinlaw was my top interior defensive line prospect in this class, yes, ahead of Derrick Brown," Trapasso wrote. "The main reason for that? Pass-rush capability. Kinlaw and Brown are almost identically sized, but Kinlaw was simply a much more effective pass rusher in college. Per PFF, in 2019, the South Carolina star had an 18.1 percent pass-rush win rate, second in the 2020 class among interior defensive linemen. Brown's was 13.7 percent.
"From his overwhelming bull rush to the small but hyper-effective collection of pass-rushing moves in his arsenal, Kinlaw can win in a variety of ways from any position on the defensive line. And he steps in for the departed DeForest Buckner, another tall, versatile trench player who emerged as one of the better pass-rushing inside defensive linemen in football early in his career."
Although it is entirely too early to tell the impact a rookie might have with his respective club, it's worth noting that no team has ever had back-to-back players receive the honor. If Kinlaw's first season exceeds expectations, the impressive feat only adds to prominence of San Francisco's ascendant defense.