Will the Cowboys finally make a move to beef up their defensive line? They’ve avoided putting high resources into the position of defensive tackle in past drafts, but that could change in the 2020 draft. Let’s take a look at one prospect.
Name: Javon Kinlaw
School: South Carolina
Weight: 315 lbs
2019 stat line: 12 games, 35 tackles, 6 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 2 passes defensed
The Cowboys are experiencing some change on defense with Mike Nolan arriving as the defensive coordinator, and even though he’s keeping the 4-3 base defense, Nolan is expected to try and beef up the interior of the defensive line. New defensive line coach Jim Tomsula has a similar reputation, and in Washington he helped convince the front office to take Da’Ron Payne, the hulking 320 pound tackle from Alabama.
Nolan and Tomsula could convince the Dallas front office to go after some bigger tackles as well, especially considering the Cowboys only have three true defensive tackles under contract going into 2020. One prospect the Cowboys could look at in the draft is South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw.
Widely considered by many to be the second best defensive tackle prospect in the draft after Auburn’s Derrick Brown, Kinlaw impressed in interviews at the Senior Bowl with stories about growing up homeless. Then Kinlaw impressed even more with a dominant performance before ending his week early with tendinitis in his knee. The injury isn’t expected to be serious, but it could impact his draft stock just enough to keep him in the Cowboys’ range.
What stands out most about Kinlaw is his unrelenting power at the point of attack. He has a massive, fully-filled frame that he uses to his advantage. When he breaks out of his stance, he comes at you like a bullet shot out of a gun: lightning fast with ridiculous stopping power. Playing in the SEC, Kinlaw faced some of the best offensive line prospects in all of college football and still dominated.
Kinlaw gets his hands on blockers almost immediately and never gives up. He has a deep repertoire of moves with his hands that he deploys nearly every snap, regardless of whether it’s a pass rush down or not. Kinlaw is one of those rare prospects who is just as effective at penetration as he is in two-gap technique. Because of his strong and active hands, as well as his overall impressive motor, he can two-gap against most interior blockers and be effective in moving them around. When asked to shoot a gap and get into the backfield, Kinlaw combines his explosiveness and overwhelming power to get past nearly anyone and disrupt the play. He’s so dangerous that he commanded triple teams with some level of regularity:
How come Javon Kinlaw is a such a beast but doesn't have the production?— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 3, 2020
He spent every other 3rd down like this... pic.twitter.com/2Opnwp0nXP
In run defense, Kinlaw is technically sound and does a good job of reacting to the play. His size naturally inhibits how agile he can be along the line of scrimmage, but he cancels it out by using his size and hands to become an inescapable space eater; if he can get his hands on you, he’s probably bringing you down.
While Kinlaw is very active with his hands, his pass rushing style is more based on overpowering the blocker. His bull rush is second to none, and because of how he uses his hands when creating contact, Kinlaw does a good job of disengaging as well. Whereas DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn have terrorized linemen with their cross chops, I don’t see Kinlaw having that kind of success, at least not right now. But his strength and hands does present it as a possibility as he develops.
Playing in a multiple 4-3 defense in college, Kinlaw moved all over the line of scrimmage. He’s aligned as a 0-technique nose tackle, 1-technique, 3-technique, 4-technique, and even occasionally at 7-technique. It’s unlikely that he’d play that many different positions in the pros, but Kinlaw is definitely versatile enough to move around the interior line as much as Nolan and Tomsula would want him to.
Kinlaw is easily my biggest draft crush at this early point of the draft season. He’s both a massive, immovable object and an unstoppable force, and has the versatility to move around plenty. If he’s available at 17, the Cowboys would be getting a legitimate starter from day one to anchor their front seven. And with the weaknesses this defense showed in 2019, Kinlaw’s presence could help solve a lot of those issues.