During the beginning of the 2014 college football season, I had Oregon's Arik Armstead on my radar pegging him as a perfect scheme fit for the 49ers. Obviously, the potential is there and we have seen flashes of dominance this past season, but what really intrigued me was how Armstead was utilized in Oregon's Bear (Hidden Bear) defensive scheme.
As the 4-technique, Armstead maintained B gap integrity utilizing his power and length to stop the inside run, stacking and shedding and cross facing opponents down the line to make the stop, or occupying blocks in order to allow the linebackers a free run to the ball carrier.
Each week I was watching Armstead perform his craft, but I couldn't help but notice someone else popping out on film. It was Armstead's fellow defensive end mate, DeForest Buckner, who was also tasked to perform the same duties as an ideal run stuffer clogging the middle blotting out the sun in Oregon's scheme.
The more I watched of Armstead, the more I fell in love with Buckner's game, and in a lot of ways, Buckner was outperforming his fellow Duck (excellent production). Towards the end of the 2014 college football season, there were talks about Buckner declaring for the 2015 NFL draft (my giddiness radar was hopeful), but ultimately, he stayed for his senior year and improved upon his already impressive junior year (showing his capacity to improve--a major asset in my mind for transitioning to the next level.
Buckner bolstered his 2014 statistical production of 81 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and 4 sacks to 83 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, and 10.5 sacks in 2015 playing in two fewer games this past season. The four-year starter, Pac-12's 2015 Defensive Player of the Year recipient, and former high school basketball player is explosive off the line of scrimmage providing a tremendous jolt at the point of attack, utilizing his length, amazingly long arms, and humongous tennis racket hands to keep blockers away, easily stacking and shedding blockers pursuing the ball carrier with a fierce intensity.
Jersey No.: 44
Arm: 34 3/8" (Baalke Approved)
Hand: 11 3/4" (tied for the largest hands measured at the combine since 2003)
40 Yard Dash: 5.05
10 Yard Split: 1.77
Vertical Jump: 32"
Broad Jump: 9'8" (tied for 13th as top performer in Broad Jump)
20 Yard Shuffle: 4.47
3-Cone Drill: 7.51
Bench Press: 21*
*Pro Day results
How the measurables translate for defensive linemen:
When looking at the measurables for defensive lineman, keep in mind of some minimum measurable targets defensive lineman should be expected to target as a minimum result. For the most part, prospects exceeding these minimal targets tend to find success in the NFL.
40 Yard Dash - Minimum Target: 5.15
10 Yard Split - Minimum Target: 1.80
Vertical Jump - Minimum Target: 30"
Broad Jump - Minimum Target: 8'9"
20 Yard Shuttle - Minimum Target: 4.55
3-Cone Drill - Minimum Target: 7.75
Bench Press - Minimum Target: 26
40 Yard Dash - Minimum Target: 4.85
10 Yard Split - Minimum Target: 1.70
Vertical Jump - Minimum Target: 33"
Broad Jump - Minimum Target: 9'9"
20 Yard Shuttle - Minimum Target: 4.30
3-Cone Drill - Minimum Target: 7.35
Bench Press - Minimum Target: 24
Do Your Homework:
Watch highlights of Buckner against Michigan State, Washington State, Washington, Oregon State, Georgia State, TCU, Stanford, Utah, Ohio State, NFL Combine Interview, and watch a highlight montage featured below:
- Showcases a superb combination of size, length, power, awareness, quickness, and athleticism.
- Explodes off the line of scrimmage with great athleticism utilizing amazing length, strength, and continuous effort working heavy hands and feet in concert attacking opponents.
- Excellent ability to play front-side blocks displaying power at the point of attack taking advantage of his length and leverage to gain an inside push displaying quickness to angle or slant to be a disruptive force in the backfield.
- Maintains impressive lateral quickness and body control squaring his shoulders when defending against back-side blocks.
- Powers through double teams utilizing his length and hand technique to keep blockers away and easily stacks and sheds blockers and cross facing opponents down the line to make the stop.
- Draws consistent double teams occupying blocks in order to allow linebackers a free run to the ball carrier.
- Shows commitment to gap integrity and dominates with leverage, powering through offensive linemen with an impressive bull rush.
- Uses arm length, massive hands, and sound awareness to disrupt passing lanes with 10 career pass deflections.
- A disruptive active defensive lineman dominating at the point of attack with a total of 164 tackles the past two seasons.
- Occasionally succumbs to his length advantage by shooting out with a high pad level allowing himself to get stonewalled.
- Needs to show more consistency squaring shoulders, will get taken away from play and can easily be taken off balance.
- Does not possess elite quickness and burst to get up the field and attack off the edge, and will need to show more consistency converting speed to power.
- Due to his superior height and length, maintaining leverage will always be a concern.
Calais Campbell - Arizona Cardinals
Check out DeForest Buckner's stats at Sports Reference College Football.
There is no question the defensive line position is an area of need for the 49ers. With the health of Ian Williams and Glenn Dorsey in question, as well as both of their contracts ending in 2016, the 49ers depth, and the future of the position, is in desperate need of bolstering. DeForest Buckner's game is very similar to Arik Armstead; however, at this current point of their careers, Buckner is a better player (similar power to the raw Armstead, but Buckner is more adept at rushing the passer), which shows in stat production when comparing the two. Moreover, like Armstead, Buckner is an excellent scheme fit for the 49ers, showing his domination in the four, five, and six-technique, as well as the versatility to kick it inside to the A gap and nose tackle.
Buckner, a true 3-4 defensive end capable of rushing the passer, is something the 49ers desperately need and will help the team's outside edge defenders considerably. I would not be surprised if 'long-armed-lover' Trent Baalke drafts another 3-4 defensive end very high (look at the back-to-back-to-back safety picks) allowing Buckner and Armstead to blot out the sun as future bookends wreaking havoc for years to come, potentially becoming the newest version of the Mighty Duck's Bash Brothers (post Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire). Moreover, as a former Chip Kelly recruit at Oregon, Buckner fits the desired mold and philosophy of Kelly, "Big people beat up little people".