The 2017 NFL Draft is still six months away, and in the meantime, Mel Kiper is looking at how the 2016 draft class is performing after six weeks. This marks his third version of the rankings, which look at the following
- This is a measure for all games this season, not just last week.
- Total snap count matters. Staying on the field is a measure of value.
- Positional value matters, but overall performance and impact on the team matter more.
- Relative value matters. I ask: Would this player be a starter on most teams or on a good team?
The San Francisco 49ers have had their struggles the first six weeks, but they have had some young players flash signs of potential. Kiper’s latest rankings include defensive tackle DeForest Buckner at No. 6, and cornerback Rashard Robinson at No. 15.
Buckner has appeared on all three of Kiper’s rankings. On September 23, Buckner was ranked No. 6. On October 6, Buckner was ranked No. 7. Here are the three blurbs from each set of rankings
9/23: “Don't let Buckner's lack of production on paper fool you. Though the massive defender has just eight tackles, he has a been a force for the 49ers. Buckner has a unique combination of power and length, and he's still developing his pass-rushing skills. Barring injury, his statistical production will increase.”
10/6: “Buckner has been the most consistent player on the 49ers' defensive line this season, leading the group in snaps and tackles. At 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, he has a unique combination of power and length, and he's still developing his pass-rushing skills. The sacks will come.”
10/21: “After missing a game with a foot injury, Buckner returned in Week 6 and had two sacks -- the first of his career -- against the Bills. He leads 49ers defensive linemen in snaps and tackles. At 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, he has a unique combination of power and length, and he's still developing his pass-rushing skills.”
Kiper did not have Robinson in his first rankings, but had him in the “next in line” group on his second set of rankings. In ranking him No. 15, Kiper had this to say:
The 49ers have allowed the seventh-fewest passing yards per game -- their No. 32-ranked rushing defense is another story -- and Robinson has been a solid addition. The fourth-round pick who played only 20 games at LSU filled in for an injured Jimmie Ward and played well. After suffering a concussion in the loss to the Bills, the 6-foot-1 Robinson could be out this week.
Kiper had Buckner ranked No. 9 on his final pre-draft big board, and had Robinson ranked No. 245. I am not surprised Kiper has been slow-playing Robinson. Buckner has made an impact, but Robinson has been a force in the 49ers secondary. He does have fewer snaps than Buckner, but he is proving himself worthy of a starting spot. We are waiting on the final injury report later today to see if he can play in Week 7, but the cornerback depth chart is emerging as more of a strength.