For the second time in two years, the Oregon Ducks look to have a defensive lineman selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Last year it was Arik Armstead selected at #17 and this time around it is the big man from Hawai'i DeForest Buckner who looks to be drafted even higher. Having worked with both players when I was an undergraduate assistant in 2013 I can tell you that I would take Buckner over Armstead in a second. The work ethic and leadership that Buckner displayed was unmatched on the defense and will be sorely missed next year for the Ducks. But, in the mean time it's time to celebrate Buckner's success as he advances to the NFL as a potential high draft pick.
The numbers didn't stand out in the leader board as far as defensive linemen go, but Buckner had a very solid workout. The defensive lineman didn't need to put on much of a show at the combine as his game tape did most of the talking for his game. One thing that stands out is of course Buckner's frame as well as his 11 3/4 " hands.
Buckner has one of the most NFL ready bodies among all defensive players in this years draft. The 6' 7" foot 291 pound frame allowed the lineman to play a majority of the snaps in the rotation heavy Oregon defense, often times taking up multiple offensive lineman in his final year at Oregon in the absence of Armstead. His length gives him an advantage to swat down many passes at the line.
Buckner uses this size to his advantage as he is able to shed blocks at will thanks to his large hands and get to the ball. He is especially proficient in the run game when he can shed the block and get to the running back. Many times, Buckner's length was able to snag a running back or quarterback from a position that others wouldn't be able to. A trait that also sets DeForest apart is his pursuit to the ball. Many times you will see the big man as the first one down the field to chase down a ball carrier. Buckner is a very skilled lineman who has every tool to succeed at the next level.
With the good of being a 6' 7" defensive lineman, comes the bad for Buckner. Many times DeForest lets his height get the best of him and plays with his pad level too high. Sporadically, Buckner comes out of the snap with pad level too high, taking himself out of the play immediately.
Another weakness in his game is that he lacks elite pass rushing speed. Many experts view Buckner as the type that can either play in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense, but I tend to disagree with that. I don't see him having the pass rushing speed that you often see in defensive ends in a 4-3 system. Buckner to me is a much better fit as a tackle in the 3-4 system similarly to what he played at Oregon.
Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals seems to be the general concensus for the type of player that Buckner will be. The size of the players is very similar and the lineman for Arizona plays at a very high level. Other comparrisons liken Buckner to his former defensive lineman partner of Arik Armstead.
Buckner has a chance to be one of the first players taken off the board not named Jared Goff or Carson Wentz. Some mock drafts have Buckner going anywhere as high as #3 with the San Diego Chargers and as low as the Chicago Bears at #11. Two slots to keep an eye on are the #6 position in the Baltimore Ravens who could be looking for an interior defensive presence and of course the #7 position where Buckner could be reunited on the line with Armstead and head coach Chip Kelly.
Oregon Career Stats