No. 1: Defensive End DeForest Buckner
And the final player on our list of the 10 most important 49ers in 2017 is second-year defensive end DeForest Buckner.
Buckner was a key cog in a bad, bad defense last year. Therefore it should be no surprise he led the team in snaps last year (1,007). In comparison, the next player — safety Eric Reid — was second on the defense with 742 snaps.
Buckner will have some help this year on the defensive line this year. A healthy Arik Armstead and the presence of Solomon Thomas should make a big difference.
Yet that doesn’t diminish Buckner’s overall importance for the team’s chances.
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It’s important to note Buckner was tied for the team lead in sacks last year (six) on a team with little support up front. His interior pass-rush ability won’t go away with the new additions, so the defense will be expecting this number to increase.
More importantly, the 49ers defensive front-seven figures to be the primary strength of the team entering 2017.
And Buckner is its most important player, justifying his placement at No. 1 on this list.