Javon Kinlaw and Deebo Samuel are teammates once again.
On Thursday night, Kinlaw, the former South Carolina defensive lineman, was chosen by the San Francisco 49ers with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Last year the 49ers drafted Samuel, the Gamecock alumnus, in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Kinlaw became the highest picked Gamecock since Jadeveon Clowney went No. 1 overall in 2014.
“He moves really well for a guy who’s going to be an interior presence,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said on a conference call with reporters before the draft. “He’s special in terms of athleticism. He has that versatility. He obviously was successful against the highest level of competition. His tape is really good. I think he’ll improve with NFL coaching.”
Added Kiper Jr. after the pick, “Physically if you can draw a defensive tackle, it would be Javon Kinlaw.”
Kinlaw arrived at South Carolina three years ago with expectations of, in his words, “just being a football player.” Fresh out of Jones Community College in Mississippi, he weighed 340 pounds and was just another talented athlete on the Gamecock depth chart.
But he worked his way into a chiseled 6-6, 310 pounds and made giant leaps during his time as a Gamecock.
“There are not many 6-6, 300-plus pound guys that have his athleticism,” former South Carolina defensive line coach John Scott Jr. said before this past season. “He’s really strong and he’s got something only God can give you, extremely long arms so he can separate off blockers.
“If you had to draw up the body type for that league, that’s the body type. With my time with the Jets we had Leonard Williams, 6-6, 310-pound guy with that kind of athleticism.”
Kinlaw had 82 tackles (17 for loss) and 10 sacks in his three seasons with South Carolina. He also had eight passes defended, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles. As a senior in 2019 he had 35 tackles and six sacks, tying for the eighth-most in the SEC. He added four quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and one blocked kick.
He was named an Associated Press first-team All-American, a second-team All-American by USA TODAY and a first-team All-SEC selection by SEC coaches. The midseason All-American was recognized as the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week after South Carolina’s upset win over Georgia after recording four tackles and a sack.