According to NFL.com’s Gil Brandt, Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is second among his Top 5 candidates for NFL Defensive Player of the Year through the first four weeks of this season—trailing only Cleveland Browns pass rusher Myles Garrett:
2. DeForest Buckner
Indianapolis Colts · DT
With all due respect to outstanding youngster Darius Leonard, the Colts’ offseason trade for DeForest Buckner has lifted their defense to a whole new level. With Buckner on board, Indianapolis has allowed just 945 yards, the lowest total allowed by any team through a season’s first four weeks since the 2010 Ravens (943). In the Colts’ most recent win, a road victory over Chicago, the Bears could muster just 28 rushing yards; the defense has allowed 11 points or less in three straight games heading into a Week 5 matchup with Cleveland. Buckner’s stat line is relatively modest (18 tackles, 1.5 sacks, eight QB hits, with 14 QB pressures, per Next Gen Stats), but his impact has been sizable, felt mostly in terms of the attention he draws from opponents, thus making it possible for Buckner’s defensive teammates to make plays.
The former All-Pro for the San Francisco 49ers is once again playing like one in Indianapolis and has been well worth the Colts’ 2020 first round pick and sizable cash investment—as a natural three-technique dominating in the interior of their defensive line.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), the 6’7”, 295 pound (and long-armed) defensive tackle is their second highest graded interior defender with a +90.7 grade overall—highlighted by a +90.2 pass rushing grade:
Colts iDL Deforest Buckner had himself a day vs. the Jets.. his 4 hurries was tied for best among iDL in week 3.— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) September 29, 2020
Key to unleashing him was loading up his side to get him one-on-one.. it worked - pic.twitter.com/Cm1WEBlnBW
Buckner has so far been the complete package for the Colts at defensive tackle, as a well-rounded interior force—who can both stop the run and rush the passer at a high level—providing much needed interior pass pressure.
He’s consistently featured his elite (and unique) combination of power, quickness, and athleticism for a big man of such sheer size.:
Colts veteran DE Justin Houston on DeForest Buckner, who's been a monster so far: "I’ve never played with someone as big and as elusive as he is ... he moves like he’s 180 pounds. Never seen someone that size be able to do that in person. You see it on TV with basketball guys."— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) October 5, 2020
For what it’s worth, the Colts have only had one player to win NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the franchise’s history, former All-Pro safety Bob ‘The Hitman’ Sanders in 2007.
Buckner is well on his way to seriously joining such rare elite company if he continues his stellar start to the 2020 season—as he’s been nothing short of a dominant interior force so far for the Colts.