Often, defensive tackles can dominate a game yet hardly get noticed. In his second season, the 49ers’ DeForest Buckner already falls into that category.
This week, the analytic website Pro Football Focus selected Buckner as No. 4 on its list of the 10 best second-year players in the NFL. Recently, PFF included Bucker as No. 38 on its ranking of the top 101 players in the NFL during the 2017 season. That’s remarkable considering Buckner had just three sacks in 16 games this past season while being involved in 61 tackles. It means Buckner, the team’s No. 1 pick from Oregon in the 2016 draft, is doing a lot of good things in the middle of the line.
"(Buckner) is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the most disruptive interior linemen in the game," wrote PFF.
Pro Football Focus pointed to his 19 quarterback hits and 29 hurries on 475 pass-rushing snaps, which earned him a pass-rush efficiency grade that was 11th best in the league among defensive tackles. Buckner also was the 10th best in the NFL at his position against the run, according to PFF.
Over his first two seasons, Buckner has been an iron man in the San Francisco 49ers' trenches and has logged more defensive snaps (1,873) than any other interior defender.
"It’s clear that the Niners have found a defensive cornerstone that the team can build around for years to come," wrote PFF.
Buckner, in combination with fellow first-round defensive linemen Solomon Thomas and Arik Armstead gives the team a dynamic young combination on the defensive front. Plus, the 49ers – who need pass-rush help – could even go for another defensive lineman in the upcoming draft, if the edge rusher they desire is available with their ninth or 10th pick in the first round (a position still to be determined).
Though the stats don’t scream that Buckner is a star, Buckner is to Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Said Shanahan: "From a coaching standpoint, what offensive coaches look at when they turn on the tape, he's in the backfield, he gets to the quarterback, he affects a lot of the game."
And, he's just 23.