Name: DeForest Buckner
Height: 6′ 7″
School: University of Oregon
Draft Pick: 7th overall
When it came to the 2016 NFL Draft, there was a pair of names on the board that many experts considered difference makers on the defensive side of the ball. The first was Joey Bosa and the second was DeForest Buckner. While Bosa was drafted first, Buckner still looks to make a huge difference for the San Francisco 49ers this season.
It seems like an eternity since the 49ers were dominating the NFL every season, mostly behind a defensive unit that was considered one of the best in the NFL. However, coaching and personnel changes turned the 49ers from a perennial playoff contender into a team that was one of the worst in the NFL in 2015. With a new head coach in Chip Kelly, they hope to turn things around and made Buckner a huge part of that transformation.
In college, DeForest Buckner played defensive tackle for the Oregon Ducks and finished his senior season with 83 tackles and a Pac-12 high 10.5 sacks. He was a dominating presence, standing 6-7 and weighing 291 pounds. He has added to that weight, and as a rookie, Buckner is the biggest member of the 49ers defensive line heading into the season. There is really no doubt that the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft will be starting as well.
Buckner has a big advantage over almost the entire San Francisco 49ers team heading into the season as well. Chip Kelly was the head coach at Oregon when he recruited Buckner to play for the Ducks. Kelly moved on to the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles and made his former college recruit his first draft pick with his new team in San Francisco.
San Francisco also wants DeForest Buckner to be versatile as well, and they have worked him at all three defensive line positions this offseason so that he can just plug into wherever they need him the most. While he has a lot to learn about the NFL, and needs to adjust to the speed of the pro game, his size and strength should make him a frontrunner for the Defensive Rookie of the Year competition, which will probably see him competing against Joey Bosa again for attention.
While he has the huge size advantage, there are some concerns that Buckner plays too tall off the snap and might struggle to change directions when the speed of the NFL puts him at a disadvantage. However, when it comes to rushing the quarterback, there might not be another defensive rookie in the NFL this year who can match his playmaking skills.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.