‘Underrated’ $4 Million 49ers Defender Called 2023 Breakout Candidate


Getty The 49ers celebrate an interception on January 22, 2023 in Santa Clara.

As the San Francisco 49ers begin 2023 OTAs (organized team activities), it’s never too early for analysts to get their upcoming season predictions out early — including breakout candidates.

But one candidate mentioned by Rohan Chakravarthi of 49ers Webzone on Sunday, May 21 is not only a defender paid nearly $4 million by the 49ers, but was not in action in 2022 and faces new competition at his position: Interior defensive lineman Kalia Davis.

‘Underrated’ 2022 Selection

Davis fell to the sixth round of his draft class amid concerns of his knee, which sustained a torn ACL during his University of Central Florida days. However, there was still praise for the selection by the Niners.

“One of the more underrated selections from the 2022 NFL Draft for the 49ers, Kalia Davis essentially redshirted his rookie season after suffering a torn UCL during his final year of college,” Chakravarthi wrote.

Davis isn’t just returning from knee surgery and the NFL version of a holdback year. He’s also soon to enter a room with newcomer and past Pro Bowler Javon Hargrave sitting in the same venue with him. The 49ers also have past starter Javon Kinlaw expected to be healthy from his own knee ailment that limited him in 2022. This has the potential to point towards Davis still having to wait his turn to earn repetitions on the 49ers’ defensive line.

Yet, here’s why Chakravarthi believes that Davis merits the “breakout candidate” label.

“With the departure of rotational piece Hassan Ridgeway, as well as the development of Davis himself, the 2022 sixth-round pick could place himself in a position for additional reps with his unique explosiveness at his size,” Chakravarthi wrote.

The analyst adds that the past UCF star would’ve fit nicely in the 49ers’ defensive line rotation last year had it not been for his knee hindering him.

“Davis could’ve been a contributor towards the end of last season, but now comes into his first true offseason fully healthy and ready to make an impact in a loaded defensive tackle room,” Chakravarthi said.

Davis Would Add Additional Explosion Inside

The 49ers brought in the former Philadelphia Eagles star Hargrave to give them a long-awaited every down true inside pass rusher next to Nick Bosa — which hasn’t been seen by the Niners since the days of DeForest Buckner. Kinlaw, when healthy, gives an addition power and speed element. The 49ers have also proven to be a force in the trenches when Arik Armstead slides inside to give mismatches off size and hand power.

A healthy Davis, though, is capable of making them an even deeper unit — and may prevent the 49ers from moving Armstead over and keeping him at his natural defensive end spot.

Another thought involving Davis when he was drafted by the 49ers was to give S.F. a potential replacement for D.J. Jones. The nose tackle was praised for using his foot quickness and strength to clog inside running lanes before signing with the Denver Broncos after the 2021 season. Davis was described pre-draft by nfl.com’s Lance Zierlein as a “one-gapping three-technique with terrific snap quickness that creates early advantages with the potential to become full-scale disruptions.”

With Davis fully healthy, the 49ers have a chance to see early glimpses of that quickness in the next set of practices.

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