The NFL is a passing league, and there’s no doubt that quarterbacks are the stars. So it’s important to have defensive linemen who can slow down opposing offenses. Sam Gold examines one of the best defensive lineman in this year’s draft, DeForest Buckner.
DeForest Buckner was a four-star recruit coming out of high school in Hawaii. The defensive lineman played four seasons with Oregon establishing himself as a premier defender in the PAC-12 earning conference second-team honors as a junior and was second-team Associated Press All-American in his senior year. Buckner enters the 2016 NFL Draft as a potential top-10 selection.
Buckner’s size makes many project him as a defensive end in the NFL, the same position he played at Oregon; however, his lack of top-end speed and dipping ability actually make him a better fit as an interior defensive lineman in the NFL.
Below, you will see the spider chart comparison from MockDraftable.com between Buckner’s combine performance against other defensive tackle prospects since 1999:
Using his length and power to his advantage, Buckner gets a consistent push into the backfield and has second-level effort to make plays across the field. Even when an offensive lineman gets their hands between his shoulder pads, he consistently is able to disengage from them and pursue the quarterback.
In this play, Buckner lines up as a 3 technique defensive tackle and bull rushes the left guard after the snap. The offensive lineman attempts to quick-set him and does a good job of getting his hands inside Buckner’s shoulder pads to control his momentum off the line of scrimmage.
Buckner reacts perfectly by forcing the left guard’s elbows upward, allowing him to fully swipe away the blocker’s hands and hit the quarterback. He also drew an “illegal hands to the face” penalty.
On this next play, Buckner performs an excellent rip move lining up in his base position as a 4 technique in Oregon’s Base 3-4. Buckner immediately swipes away the left guard’s hands and then rips with his outside arm to create separation:
Buckner’s pass rush is not perfect. He still needs to get a better feel for when to execute counter moves, which is a big reason his pass rush often stalls. Since the offensive lineman anchors his feet, Buckner should use a bulljerk counter move to disengage, but he rarely uses it to his advantage.
From a physical standpoint, Buckner is tall and long, but he has just average snap anticipation. Additionally, he lacks quickness off the line of scrimmage and this inhibits his ability to convert speed-to-power.
Buckner uses his length and power to control his gap responsibility, making him an excellent two-gap defender for any defense that needs interior run support if the play is run between the tackles. This would allow him to use his stacking and shedding ability to make plays in the backfield:
Buckner’s biggest issue in run defense is that he turns his shoulders to follow blockers on stretch running plays, which results in a loss of balance – making him susceptible to secondary drive blocks like this:
Keeping his feet moving while staying square to the line of scrimmage will allow him to be more effective on these plays.
Buckner’s best fit is inside as a 3 technique defensive tackle in the NFL. He can play strongside defensive end on running downs, but he does not have the lateral agility nor the dipping ability to consistently pass rush as an edge defender.
Overall, Buckner has the tools necessary to be a versatile defender in any defensive scheme. His effort per snap is extremely impressive as he chases ball carriers across the field (like in the video below), and consistently fights through double teams: