MOBILE, Ala. – With the 2020 NFL Draft slowly drawing closer, the conversation surrounding the newest draft class will only continue to intensify. Names like Chase Young and Joe Burrow are well-known, but a greater number of prospects will become familiar to fans across the NFL.
South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw is a name Falcons fans may want to remember. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound defender is much more athletic than someone that size should be and possesses exceptional length. Kinlaw was an early standout at the Senior Bowl, but he shut things down after the first two practices due to some soreness in his knee.
The Falcons are looking to juice up their pass rush and bolster their defensive line, overall, and NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein thinks Kinlaw would be an excellent addition.
"If he lasts, the guy that would be the best for the Falcons … Javon Kinlaw has really killed it out here, physically," Zierlein said. "He's big, he's long, he's a momentum rusher. You can play him in an even front or an odd front, so you can play him at a 3-technique, you can play him as a 5-technique. You can align him anywhere from tackle to tackle, basically."
A first-team All-American as a senior, Kinlaw was a dominant player on South Carolina's defensive line. He recorded 35 tackles, six tackles for a loss, six sacks, two pass defenses and two fumble recoveries in his final season with the Gamecocks, and he registered 15 tackles for a loss and 10 sacks in his junior and senior seasons.
Kinlaw is far from a secret among NFL teams, and he is projected as a first-rounder by experts like Todd McShay and Bucky Brooks. In fact, Kinlaw explained that some advised him not to attend the Senior Bowl given where he was projected to get drafted.
"A lot of people told me my stock was at a place where I didn't need to come here," Kinlaw said. "But I wanted to show I can compete. That's the one true reason I came."
Kinlaw must have repeated the word "compete" a dozen times during his press conference on the Senior Bowl's opening night, but he proved that was more than talk during the first two practices.
It remains extremely early in the draft process, and free agency can always completely flip a team's needs, but Kinlaw seems to be a player who fits what the Falcons' on-paper needs are at this time.
At No. 16 in the draft, Zierlein believes the Falcons are in excellent position to maneuver around. He predicts runs on offensive tackles and wide receivers to occur at some point in the first round, and given the Falcons aren't expected to target those two positions that early, they could let the draft come to them.
But if Kinlaw is within reach for Atlanta, Zierlein still likes what he could bring to the Falcons.
"He's the type of guy, he's a little raw, but he has elite potential," he said. "If he develops, he could be a Chris Jones type player. That's really a guy that could slide to them, and I don't even really mean slide. That would be an interesting spot for them, and a fit, too."