According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (subscription), new Indianapolis Colts All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner is among the NFL’s Top 10 inside defensive lineman—coming in hot at the #4 spot overall:
4. DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts
Age: 26 | Highest ranking: 3 | Lowest ranking: 7
Buckner had a top-seven vote on every ballot, punctuating the Colts’ decision to trade a first-round pick to the 49ers to acquire him, then give him $105 million on a new deal.
The word on Buckner is he’s not necessarily dominant on one area, but he’s a true anchor — good at just about everything.
“He’s capable of changing their defense,” said an NFL coordinator. “Put him at three technique and let him go. He’s not a John Randle, dominant type, but he’s a really good player and uses his size and leverage well.”
A 6-foot-7 frame with 34-3/8-inch arms and 11-3/4-inch hands will do the job. Plus, Buckner was a leader for a Super Bowl team as the 49ers finished top-five in passing defense, scoring defense and team sacks.
The ranking was based on a poll conducted by 50 league executives, coaches, scouts, and players.
Buckner trailed only Los Angeles Rams superfreak Aaron Donald (a no brainer for #1), as well as the Kansas City Chiefs Chris Jones (#2) and Philadelphia Eagles Fletcher Cox (#3).
The Colts traded the 13th overall pick for Buckner before rewarding him with a 4-year, $84 million contract extension earlier this offseason.
At 6’7”, 295 pounds (with 34 3/8” arms), the former 7th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft has impressive athleticism, quickness, strength, and freakishly long arms—which help his ability to penetrate the pocket (that swim move!) and wreak havoc in opposing backfields.
He had 62 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 4 fumble recoveries for the NFC Champion 49ers defense this past season during all 16 starts.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), Buckner was their 11th best graded interior defender with a +81.4 overall grade in 2019.
He has 19.5 sacks combined over the past two seasons, but he remains an incredibly well rounded player as both a pass rusher and against the run.
Buckner’s also insanely durable, having only missed 1 start so far in his 4-year career.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard has stated that the ‘3-technique really drives this thing’ regarding his defense, and he just acquired one of the best in the business—as the 26 year old should be a natural fit within Matt Eberflus’ defensive scheme—who’s right in his prime.
Buckner should prove to be an interior force for the Colts—with his ability to generate pass pressure from the inside and cause overall disruption against the run:
DeForest Buckner is an absolute force of nature who is probably the 'freakiest' physical specimen on the interior DL in the NFL right now. There is so much to say about his week 2 performance, but for now just watch: pic.twitter.com/jlYlC0dhdR— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 20, 2018
Buckner dusting Wis with his primary move; club-swim pic.twitter.com/ji6HxYcUd5— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) February 4, 2020
High quality sack from DeForest Buckner here. Love how quickly he plants his foot in the ground, squares up the RT, and gets inside his chest. Uses the forklift to disengage and drives his inside hip upfield/through the gap for a sack: pic.twitter.com/qQW6qWkyAZ— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) November 5, 2018