Sakamoto: Why 49ers DT DeForest Buckner will make Pro Bowl in 2017

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Powerful. Tough. Physical. Those are three words to describe San Francisco 49ers DT DeForest Buckner. A behemoth of a man at 6-7, 291, Buckner is not your typical defensive lineman. Thanks to his rare physique and 34 3/8 arms, Buckner has a broader tackling radius than most, allowing him to make more plays at or near the line of scrimmage. 

Last year’s first-round pick (No. 7) had a solid rookie season. A tribute to his high-motor, Buckner racked up an NFL-best 73 tackles (4 tackles for loss). That type of production is astounding. Why? Because typically 3-4 defensive ends don’t garner eye-popping stats, as their main assignment is holding the point of attack (POA) freeing up the linebackers.  

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But aside from being a run-stuffing machine down along the trenches, Buckner also displayed versatility piling up 6.0 sacks. He was by far the team’s best defensive lineman. Not even close. So what should Forever Faithful expect in year two?

I asked Buckner for his thoughts and he had this to say:

In the video above, Buckner admits to me he has a lot of work to do. A positive sign of a humble individual trying to improve on his craft, Buckner admits his rookie season was inconsistent. 

“To be honest, my last year was just about consistency and being able to keep my pad level low. I kind of started off  slow during the year, as I played more games, things started to get a bit more easier,” Buckner told me. 

But how did things get easier for Buckner aside from game day experience? Buckner cites that film-room study really helped develop his overall game. 

“Really watching the film! I felt throughout the year, I really got better at watching film. Seeing the little things, the details I have to change in my own play, and also the things I can pickup against other teams. And I think being able to develop more in the classroom, really helped me throughout the season,” Buckner said. 

I have been highly critical of Buckner early in his rookie season simply due to the fact, that I also noticed he played with a high pad level (see tweet above). However, to play a little devil’s advocate and keep things 100, I also noticed the quick turnaround.

The 49ers will be transitioning to the more traditional 4-3 base defense under new DC Robert Saleh. This bodes well for Buckner for a number of reasons. For one, the team will be implementing a one-gap defense. Buckner will likely be featured as one of the team’s interior defensive tackles shooting both A and B gaps. 

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Under last year’s 3-4 scheme, Buckner was often double teamed while playing man-up on the offensive tackle (four-technique). This year, Buckner should have free reign to attack the quarterback while seeing plenty of one-on-one match-ups. 

A player who is just scratching the surface of his potential, don’t be surprised if Buckner becomes one of the NFL’s best 4-3 defensive tackles in only his second season. A hungry individual with the passion to match, look for Buckner to turn the corner in 2017, on his way to his first Pro Bowl berth. 

Ryan is the Founder/CEO of, 49ers Beat Writer, Live Game Day Correspondent for Bleacher Report and member of Pro Football Writers of America. Born and raised in San Jose, he also graduated from San Diego State University. His work has been featured on NFL Network, 95.7 The Game, National Football Post, Sports Illustrated, FanSided Network, ESPN Radio, CBS Sports 810, and NBC Bay Area News. For more information, please contact him via email at or call him at (408) 622-0996.