According to longtime ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts will select South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the 13th overall pick of the 2020 NFL Draft per his latest Mock Draft 2.0:
At a listed 6’6”, 310 pounds, Kinlaw recorded 35 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, and 2 fumble recoveries in 12 starts for the Gamecocks defense this past season.
In 2019, the senior captain was awarded AP First-Team All-American honors and was a First-Team All-SEC selection by the conference’s coaches.
He was also the recipient of an outstanding Student Athlete Award and several team defensive accolades including MVP of the defense, the most productive player on defense, the most unselfish award on defense, and the most tenacious award on defense.
The former Gamecocks star shined at this year’s Senior Bowl, as he was named one of the South Squad’s Defensive Practice Players of the Week:
South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw made serious money in just 48 hours of work at last week’s Senior Bowl. He’s a beast up front! pic.twitter.com/0syXDJ75MX— Todd McShay (@McShay13) January 31, 2020
Of course, the Colts could use an upgrade at defensive tackle.
Regarding his defense, general manager Chris Ballard has repeatedly stated that “the three-technique (defensive tackle) really drives this thing.”
Right now, the Colts lack a dynamic young defensive tackle in the interior of their defense—who can consistently disrupt plays and penetrate the pocket.
Veteran Denico Autry had another solid season in 2019—although his production dipped, but fellow veteran Margus Hunt’s game really regressed after a breakout 2018 campaign.
Meanwhile, former 2018 second round pick Tyquan Lewis had an entirely forgettable sophomore season—partially because of injuries.
Here’s what some draft experts are saying on Kinlaw:
Kinlaw has proved his value down here. Good week for a potential top 10 pick. https://t.co/GZjunwL2AI— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) January 23, 2020
Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw are two of my favorite guys to watch this season. Both are SUPER aggressive and powerful off the snap.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) October 29, 2019
Brown in my top 10, Kinlaw in my top 20
South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw is 6’6 300+ and moves like this pic.twitter.com/MODS1zPZqM— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) January 12, 2020
Javon Kinlaw.— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 19, 2019
Negative play creator.
Future top-20 draft pick.
Javon Kinlaw's exceptional raw power/heavy hands are no secret - but to turn like that at 6'5/315?— Connor Rogers (@ConnorJRogers) February 17, 2020
Highest-graded interior defender since 2018:— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 17, 2020
Javon Kinlaw - 91.7 pic.twitter.com/iX0h7MVYML
Sometimes, selecting in the first round can be less about consistently trying to swing for the fences and “hit home runs”—with clear “boom or bust” potential—as much as it can be consistently hitting “doubles and triples”.
In my honest opinion, Kinlaw is a very safe pick because he looks every bit the part of a really good player against elite competition in the SEC—-much like Colts starting Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly was when the franchise selected him with the 18th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Is Kinlaw sexy or flashy compared to some of the top quarterback and wide receiver prospects?
Not necessarily, but one could make the argument that the biggest pitfall of selecting in Round 1 is not coming home “empty handed” and ensuring that you come away with really good players time-after-time—and not whiffing entirely.
While a lot can still change following the NFL Combine next week, Kinlaw strikes me as the defensive prospect for the Colts that has a fairly good chance of still being available, has a really high floor, and is a pretty safe pick—in that he should be a really good starter in the NFL—with the potential to still be great.
There’s also the old cliche that “football is won in the trenches”, and Kinlaw would no doubt help the Colts in that regard.
Given Kinlaw’s natural fit at the Colts three-technique position, their need, and his talent—much like if Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown would shockingly fall, this could be an easy pick for the Colts—especially given the franchise’s affinity for past Senior Bowl stars.