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Among the most dominant players in college football the last two seasons, DeForest Buckner had the look of a top-15 pick after the 2014 season. He elected to return to Oregon for one more year, and in that time he solidified himself as a top-10 player in the class.
A 5-technique defensive end straight out of central casting, Buckner has the height, weight, length (34 ⅜-inch arms) and hand size (11 ¾”) to make scouts drool. With that size, he impresses with short-area quickness, flexibility and agility in space. Watch Buckner work a spin move or swim an offensive guard and you see just how special of an athlete he is.
Buckner will no doubt be compared to former teammate Arik Armstead, last year’s No. 17 overall pick. Given the choice between the two, Buckner is the far better football player and brings a better pro skill set to the table. Behind that agility comes the power to collapse an offensive line. Buckner initiates contact with his length and has the punch to cause guards and tackles to step back and flatten their own pocket.
Buckner fights through contact with a high motor and doesn’t surrender on snaps. Even when a blocker contains him, he’s throwing up a hand to try to bat the pass down.
As a top-10 player, there are few issues with Buckner’s game, and those that do exist are picky.
The biggest issue on film is a top-heavy playing style that has Buckner lunging and leaning on blockers in the run game. He’ll attack off the snap with a two-handed shove but doesn’t always move his feet to match his hands. This allows blockers to wall Buckner down from the side.
It may be a scheme preference, but Buckner at times will “slow play” his first step and wait to see what the lineman in front of him is doing. This is taught sometimes but is rarely used in the NFL because of the quickness and power of offensive tackles.
Weight: 290 lbs.
40 Time: 4.80s
Short Shuttle: 4.47s
PRO COMPARISON: Calais Campbell, Arizona Cardinals
FINAL GRADE: 7.20/9.00 (Round 1—Rookie Starter)