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Cardinals Honing in on Kinlaw?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 Georgia at South Carolina Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Peter Schrager of FOX Sports and the NFL Network seems to be very honed in on the Arizona Cardinals.

If you recall, Schrager predicted that the Cardinals would be a popular team in free agency. Well, in light of the DeAndre Hopkins trade, the additions of DT Jordan Phillips, OLB Devon Kennard and ILB De’Vondre Campbell, plus how popular the Cardinals were in re-signing or retaining an Impressive 13 of their own free agents, Shrager appears to have been correct.

Yesterday, Peter Shrager tweeted that he’s hearing that there is “momentum” afoot in South Carolina’s 6-6, 310 pound All-American DT Javon Kinlaw cracking the top 10—-and implied that his landing spot could very well be with the Cardinals.

Javon Kinlaw is one of the true Cinderellas of the 2020 NFL Draft. This article on ESPN.com includes a Kinlaw’s endearing interview at the Combine in which he explains how he managed to cope with living in abject poverty throughout his childhood and how his football journey led him to junior college and then on to collegiate stardom at the University of South Carolina.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/draft2020/story/_/id/28963125/from-homeless-top-nfl-draft-prospect-javon-kinlaw-journey

In many ways, Javon Kinlaw is the modern day 3 down defensive tackle whose explosive first step at his length and slippery penetration can disrupt the running game while adding a dynamic interior element to the pass rush.

In today’s NFL game it has become essential for interior pass rushers to be able to be athletic and quick enough to shed blocks and track down the more mobile QBs like Russell Wilson before he can escape pressure.

This is where Kinlaw might have a slight advantage over Auburn’s Derrick Brown. Brown is tremendous space eater and a classic power nose tackle who has surprising athleticism (5.16 40) for a player his size at 6-5 326 pounds, but he lacks the kind of quick twitch quickness (8.22 3 cone) it takes to get off his blocks fast enough to corral mobile QBs.

The problem for teams picking in the first half of the draft is that Javon Kinlaw was unable to run at the Combine because of a tendonitis issue in his knee. His tape, however, shows that at times he looks a lot like the Chiefs’ DT Chris Jones in that he can use his combination of length, speed and power to close in quickly on the ball.

Kinlaw also had hip surgery in 2018, but showed little lingering effects of it this past season with the Gamecocks. Thus, his medical report from the Combine is an important factor in determining his draft status. It is important for teams to speak with the coaches and trainers at South Carolina in order to feel confident that Kinlaw is good to go.

If the Cardinals are targeting Javon Kinlaw as their 1st round pick, it’s likely they can trade down as far as to #12 and still be able to pick him ahead of the 49ers, Bucs and Broncos at #13, #14 and #15 respectively.

In the current CBS.com mock draft, they have Javon Kinlaw sliding to the Titans at #29. Their rationale: “One of the unexpected consequences of the Redskins taking a QB (they have them taking Tua at #2) is that Kinlaw drops down the first round, which is welcome news to the Titans who are all too glad to snap him up late.”

The DratWire mock has Kinlaw headed to the Broncos at #15. Their rationale: “The early run on the top receivers hurts the Broncos, who would have to move up if they want to land an explosive pass-catcher to pair with Courtland Sutton. Instead, they switch gears and go defense, taking one of this year’s most dominant and versatile interior linemen. Kinlaw backed up strong film with a dominant performance in Senior Bowl practices.”

Todd McShay in his updated 2 round mock had Kinlaw going one slot later at #16 to the Falcons. “The Falcons will be looking all over on defense; they need replenishments at cornerback, linebacker and edge rushing. But this is pure value. Kinlaw is a physical freak who can rush inside or outside and create havoc beside Grady Jarrett. Taking a player this talented at this spot in the draft is just good business”

Mel Kiper, who recently elevated Javon Kinlaw to #9 in his top 10, has him going to the Jaguars at #9. Although, it’s worth noting that Mel strongly believes that Derrick Brown is the most talented DT in the draft—-Mel said, “very time I watched him I kept writing down and circling Derrick Brown, Derrick Brown, Derrick Brown.”

Tape Analysis:

What stands out about Javon Kinlaw versus the best OL in the SEC is his quickness off the snap and ability to get swift penetration into the offensive backfield.

However, most of the time Kinlaw sells himself on simply getting the penetration, but loses his feet and does not show a quick enough awareness of where the ball is. He often seems a half-step from making a play on the ball. This is probably the reason why his stats aren’t as eye popping as his overall talent would suggest.

Meanwhile, what’s tantalizing about this tape is the precise play of RT Jedrick Wills and the sheer swiftness and playmaking ability of WR Henry Ruggs.

Regardless, what scouts and coaches will see is how quick and slippery Javon Kinlaw is and they will feel confident that they can teach him how to be explosive while doing a stronger job of keeping his feet and tracking the football.

So, what you do is you go back and watch Chris Jones at Mississippi St. to see how Kinlaw stacks up on tape versus Jones.

Are you seeing what I am seeing? Javon Kinlaw and Chris Jones are comparable as penetrators. It’s just that Jones tracks the football a slight tad better.

Their college stats are very similar:

Chris Jones: 102 tackles (42 solo), 8.5 sacks, 18.0 tackles for loss.

Javon Kinlaw: 82 tackles (42 solo), 10.0 sacks and 17.0 tackles for loss.

Amazingly—-when you go look their Wikipedia pages, both Jones and Kinlaw are listed as 6’6”, 310 pounds.

Now—-here’s when you go and watch DT Derrick Brown versus Alabama. Let’s see if Brown was more effective versus Bama’s OL than Kinlaw.

Yes, it’s only one game, but man, this is not a particularly good tape for Derrick Brown, despite the sensational play he makes chasing a run and making a thunder tackle on the sideline. Look at how many times he gets neutralized and loses his feet. Jedrick Wills puts a nasty pancake block on him on the Najee Harris TD (3:35).

To his credit, he made a couple of plays late in the game, getting close to a sack on the Mac Jones to Henry Ruggs TD and batting a key pass down to help preserve the upset win.

But, look at how many times RB Najee Harris and QB Mac Jones run right by Brown—-in Jones’ case this is just what I meant earlier by DTs needing to be able to shed their blocks and track down the QB before he can escape. And Jones is not much of a running threat.

In my opinion, Javon Kinlaw’s tape versus Alabama > Derrick Brown’s.

Although—-again, this is the tantalizing tale of the tape.

To be perfectly honest, after watching both of these Alabama tapes, I came away hugely impressed with WR Henry Ruggs (6/99/1 TD, and another superb TD called back versus Auburn, 6/122/20.3/1 TD vs. South Carolina) and T Jedrick Wills (who puts on tape some of cleanest. most precise tackle execution I have ever seen—- in these cases versus two of the better defenses in the SEC)—-both Ruggs and Wills look the part of top 10 prospects, at least to me.

As is often the case when you are studying one player—-another player jumps out at you, and in these two games he was RB Najee Harris who had well over 100 yards combined in both game (27/146/5.4/1 TD on the ground versus Auburn, 5/87/17.4/2 TDs receiving versus South Carolina). Good quickness, balance, hands with commendable toughness/tenacity.

Kinlaw is close. His physical skills are there—-his pure football skills need attention.

Brown is a superb physical talent—-hey, Auburn beat Alabama thanks in part to 2 pick sixes, the last one going 100 yards.

One of Brown’s teammates at Auburn also jumped out at me: S/CB Daniel Thomas. Man this kid flies to the ball, he breaks up passes from the slot and he is a textbook tackler. Check this baller out. I wasn’t that aware of him until today.

https://www.patriots.com/video/2020-draft-prospects-daniel-thomas-s-auburn

Thomas ran a 4.51 at the Combine. He’s probably a 6th-7th round pick or UCFA. I think he can be a stud on STs and could develop into a Tony Jefferson type safety.