When the 49ers selected South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the 14th pick, they essentially placed high expectations on him.
Being selected in the top 15 of the draft always comes with the belief that the player has to become Pro Bowl caliber instantly. Sometimes these expectations are unfair, especially for the rookie season. For all we know, Kinlaw could end up being a late bloomer and explode in his third or fourth season.
However, considering that Kinlaw was drafted to fill the void left by DeForest Buckner, high expectations are unavoidable.
So for Kinlaw, his expectations for 2020 are to be in the same ballpark as Buckner in terms of impact. That isn't as easy as you may think. It took time for Buckner to become the dangerous player that he is. In fact, it isn't really common for defensive tackles to have a massive impact in their first year.
Just look at how Kinlaw spent his last season in college. He wasn't really adept at pass rushing and was getting schemed up easily. It wasn't until the season progressed that he really started to develop some elite skills. That is why draft experts kept pairing Kinlaw with the word "raw" since hadn't proven these skills over time.
Of course, Kinlaw could always light it up in his rookie season. I just don't see that as a likely possibility. He will have his moments and make an impact since there are three other elite defensive linemen to take the pressure off him.
But Kinlaw reaching Buckner's level in his rookie season is not a likely reality.
Kinlaw still needs to polish his pass-rush moves. Not to mention that he must widen his arsenal of moves to keep offensive linemen guessing as to what he is going to do. Defending against the run also will need improvement from Kinlaw so he can be considered an every down lineman.
Performance isn't just the only hole left by Buckner that Kinlaw needs. Availability is another one. Buckner's four-year career with the 49ers was special because of how healthy and productive he was. Having a consistently healthy defensive lineman is a real treat, because they are constantly getting battered in the trenches.
The issue with Kinlaw is tendinitis in his knee, something that Niner fans know all too well when it comes to Dee Ford. Now Kinlaw does claim that his knee is fine during his presser with the local media. But it's not like he was going to admit it's a concern of his.
This is something to keep a close eye on for the upcoming season. And this is why the expectations of Kinlaw having an impact close to Buckner's is not likely. I just don't see how a rookie is expected to reach the All Pro level of the guy he is replacing.
2020 will not be the only season that Kinlaw will be compared to Buckner. That comparison is going to stick with him for his whole career with the 49ers. It isn't fair, but these are the expectations for Kinlaw in 2020 and beyond.