49ers GM John Lynch Praises Unsung Rookie Ahead of the Draft

Kalia Davis, San Francisco 49ers

Getty Kalia Davis could join the San Francisco 49ers' defensive rotation this fall.

As the San Francisco 49ers continue to evaluate their team-building options moving forward, with options still available in free agency before the team turns its attention to the draft, John Lynch went out of his way to remind reporters about one of the team’s in-house replacements for their departed defensive linemen: Kalia Davis.

“Kalia Davis, you know, our team is counting on him,” Lynch recently told reporters via NBC Sports Bay Area.

“A lot of people don’t even know who he is. We put a sixth-round draft pick because we really liked his traits. He came back late in the year and practiced. We believe he can help us, but he’s got to go show that he can.”

A sixth-round pick out of the University of Central Florida, Davis was expected to miss the vast majority of the 2022 season due to a late-season ACL tear at UCF but did ultimately did take to the practice field at the end of the season. Based on Kyle Shanahan‘s comments on what he saw from a returning Davis, it certainly sounds like the Florida native may be part of Steve Wilks’ rotation in 2023.

Kyle Shanahan had Kind Things to say About Kalia Davis too

Back in January, the 49ers opened Davis’ 21-day practice window to allow him to practice with the team after landing on the reserve/non-football injury list in August of 2022. Though he didn’t ultimately make it onto the 53-man roster, as his window was shut down at the end of the regular season with being signed to the roster, Shanahan liked what he saw from the rookie interior rusher.

“We just wanted to get his practice window back, and he’s definitely looked good enough, and good enough to go to where if there were some injuries, it was definitely an option for us,” Shanahan said via 49ers WebZone. “But it’s been good to see him these few weeks. He’s gotten better each week. This week he had the role of playing [Cardinals DE] J.J. [Watt], so he’s gotten to do a bunch of stuff like J.J. He did a h*ll of a job doing it.”

While no one realistically expects him to play at the same level as Watt moving forward, if Davis can play a backup/rotational role behind Javon Hargrave and Arik Armstead, it should serve the 49ers incredibly well moving forward.

The San Francisco 49ers Stashed an Ascending Talent

Coming out of college, Davis was one of the more intriguing talents available on the third day of the 2022 NFL draft, with Lance Zierlein of NFL.com giving him a 5-7 round grade and a very encouraging write-up that should get Niners fans excited about the prospects of his future play.

“One-gapping three-technique with terrific snap quickness that creates early advantages with the potential to become full-scale disruptions,” Zierlein wrote. “Davis is a former linebacker with above-average bend, foot quickness, and athleticism to create mismatches for lumbering guards. He needs more schooling and refinement as both a run defender and pass rusher to become capable of competing against the spectrum of talent he will see on the next level. He hasn’t played much football over the last two seasons, but his explosive flashes could foreshadow a bright upside as a disruptive, upfield talent.”

Unfortunately, Davis now hasn’t played much football over the last three years after missing the entirety of the 2022 NFL season. With that being said, Davis did get to spend a full year getting acclimated to the NFL and was afforded a chance to sit in on meetings as he rehabbed. Though the Niners’ defensive scheme will be different in 2023, that experience should prove valuable for his future.

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