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ESPN’s ‘League Insiders’ Rank Colts’ DeForest Buckner as NFL’s 7th Best Defensive Tackle

Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner remains a Top 10 player at his position according to this recent league survey.

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Indianapolis Colts v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (subscription), and an annual survey taken by league executives, coaches, scouts, and players—with more than 80 total votes, the Indianapolis Colts’ DeForest Buckner is ranked as the 7th best defensive tackle in the league for 2023:

7. DeForest Buckner, Indianapolis Colts

Highest ranking: 3 | Lowest ranking: 9

Age: 29 | Last year’s ranking: 4

Buckner is one of the most consistent performers among defensive tackles in the rankings since 2020. Before this year, he never finished lower than fourth. He has averaged 8.8 sacks per season since 2018, and he should have multiple prime years left.

“He’s been so good for a long time,” an NFL scout said. “It’s hard to be consistent when the offense is not scoring and the defense is on the field a lot. Was a hard situation for him last year. But I thought he [maintained] his high level of play the best he could. He’s still a guy you would take all day.”

Buckner has faced 1,645 double-teams since 2017, more than any player save Donald.

Since his arrival in 2020 to Indianapolis, Buckner has arguably been the Colts best overall player consistently on a year-to-year basis—as their other top star players have either suffered through a year of seeming down-performance or been limited by injuries.

Buckner is coming off a season for the Colts in which he recorded 74 tackles (44 solo), 11 tackles for loss, 8.0 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery during 17 games (16 starts) in 2023.

Per PFF (subscription), Buckner was their 8th best graded interior defender this past season with a +82.3 overall grade—including a +77.7 pass rushing grade.

He continues to be an interior force for the Colts, featuring sheer size, long disrupting tentacle arms, strength, athleticism, and surprising quickness for a big man of his stature.

Yes, he slipped a few spots from #4 in this ranking, but I think this slide speaks more to the lack of team success by the Colts—than through any drop-off in Buckner’s own individual play.

He remains roughly a Top 5 defensive tackle in all of football and that shouldn’t change during the 2023 season for the Colts.