For a second consecutive off-season, DeForest Buckner has cracked the top five in ESPN’s top ten defensive tackle rankings ahead of the 2022 season.
The list, which was put together by Jeremy Fowler, executives, coaches and even current NFL players, has Buckner slotted just behind Kansas City’s Chris Jones, Tennessee’s Jefferey Simmons and Los Angeles’ Aaron Donald:
Highest ranking: 2 | Lowest ranking: 8
Age: 28 | Last year’s ranking: 3
Buckner might be the most complete player on this list, save Donald. In each of the past four seasons, Buckner has produced at least seven sacks, 58 tackles and nine tackles for loss.
One of Colts GM Chris Ballard’s savviest moves was acquiring Buckner via a trade with the 49ers two years ago. Since then, the Colts have had a perennial top-five player at the position with 16.5 sacks since 2020.
“Tough, instinctive, needs to be accounted for in both phases,” an AFC scout said. “Routinely beats single blocks and is racking up the sack numbers since the trade with San Francisco.”
Since being traded to the Colts in 2020, Buckner has been a consistently disruptive force for their defensive line.
During his last two seasons with Indianapolis, Buckner has recorded 16.5 sacks, 126 combined tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 44 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and was a First-Team All-Pro selection in 2020.
While the All-Pro did slide one spot from his previous No. 3 ranking, there’s no question that Buckner remains one of the best players at his position in the NFL.
Given his production over the last two seasons, sending a 2020 first-round selection to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for the 2x Pro Bowler — in Buckner — would be a no-brainer if the Colts and GM Chris Ballard had to make the same trade all over again.