2016 NFL Draft: San Francisco 49ers Picks, Grades and Analysis
By Jerod Brown
Round 1, Pick No. 7
Player: DL DeForest Buckner, Oregon
Height/Weight: 6’7”, 291 pounds
The San Francisco 49ers spend their first pick in the 2016 NFL Draft grabbing the best interior defensive lineman in the entire draft. Buckner’s name picked up steam in the final two weeks before the draft, and it appeared as if the 49ers might miss out on pairing Buckner with his Oregon teammate Arik Armstead.
Buckner could’ve gone anywhere in the top 10 but the 49ers land him at seven overall, securing a dominant defensive impact player.
Buckner joins Armstead as another long-armed Oregon player on head coach Chip Kelly’s defensive line. Nose tackle Ian Williams is recovering from offseason surgery, and his status for the beginning of the year is murky. The extension of defensive tackle Quinton Dial clogs the top of the depth chart, but Dial is versatile enough to slide inside should the 49ers opt to start both Armstead and Buckner in 2016.
Buckner is tall, strong and has length that will frustrate offensive lineman immediately. With 34 ⅜-inch arms, Buckner gets his hands on lineman first and shows impressive leverage despite his height.
He has the strength to engage, shuck and punish running backs at the line of scrimmage. Buckner is incredibly athletic for a man his size and will routinely beat offensive guards with a variety of pass-rush moves. He shows versatility, agility and flexibility to rush the passer from any position along the defensive line.
Buckner rarely loses and is always looking to make a play on the ball, even if he isn’t able to reach the quarterback himself.
Buckner is one of the best prospects in this class and comes to the 49ers as an even better player than his Oregon teammate Arik Armstead. Finding a hole in his game is like complaining about your new Ferrari.
Buckner recognizes that his length is his strength and he’ll initiate contact any chance he gets. While useful, it can lead to him leaning off the snap and failing to explode into offensive linemen with his hips underneath him. Fortunately, the bad reps are few and far between.
Buckner, like Armstead, will need a moment to acclimate to the NFL, but it shouldn’t take long for him to begin making an impact in collapsing the pocket.
Why He Fits:
If Williams wasn’t injured, the 49ers might not need another defensive lineman. With William’s injury, the team needs to prepare the depth of the line. Add that to the up-tempo pace of Chip Kelly’s offense and a solid rotation along the defensive line is valuable. Buckner will come in as one of the best interior pass-rushers on the team and can help occupy blockers while outside linebacker Aaron Lynch beats tackles for sacks. Although not flashy, Buckner’s impact will be felt immediately.
The 49ers find themselves kicking off the 2016 NFL Draft with a prospect that fits the preference for both Trent Baalke and Chip Kelly. Buckner will become a bookend on the 49ers defensive line for years, teaming up with Arik Armstead to harass NFC West quarterbacks.
Next: Round 1: Offensive Guard, Joshua Garnett