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49ers rookie expectations: DeForest Buckner best, worst case scenarios

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The San Francisco 49ers drafted defensive tackle DeForest Buckner in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Will he be a rotational guy as a rookie, or can he crack the starting lineup?

The San Francisco 49ers enter training camp in two weeks with 11 players in their 2016 draft class, not including undrafted free agents. Each player enters camp with different expectations, and odds are pretty good expectations will have changed for some of them by the end of training camp.

With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the best and worst case expectations for each player (players and links listed at the bottom). We’ll also try and come up with “realistic expectations,” but those extremes of best and worst will give us a framework heading into training camp. I want best and worst to be somewhat measured in realism, so we won’t have “gets cut” as the worst case scenario for every player. The same holds true for pie in the sky optimism.

Today, we’ll look at defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. The 49ers selected the Oregon product in the first round with seventh overall pick. He joins former Ducks teammate Arik Armstead looking to further boost the pass rush. Quinton Dial is the other defensive tackle competing for an end role in the base defense. Additionally, Tony Jerod-Eddie, Ronald Blair, Kaleb Ramsey, Garrison Smith, Darren Lake and Demetrius Cherry are all competing for a variety of roles.

Best case scenario

Buckner has the size and experience to step right in and make an impact. The best case sees him moving into the starting lineup at some point, and either Arik Armstead remains a nickel and dime guy, or Quinton Dial becomes more of a rotational role. I would contend the best case is the former, with Dial as the other starting end. I think if Buckner moves into the starting lineup, there is more value with Armstead remaining focused on the pass rush. The best case does not necessarily mean huge sack totals or other gaudy stats, but Buckner earns all-rookie honors, and maybe even a Pro Bowl berth.

Worst case scenario

He ends up primarily as a sub package guy, but is unable to fully supplant Tony Jerod-Eddie. Instead, he is a rotational guy who does some good work at times, but shows a lot of rookie inconsistency. I think his rookie floor is sufficiently high that the worst case is still better than a lot of possibilities.

Realistic expectations

He earns a steady role in the nickel and dime defensive packages as the first defensive tackle off the bench. I think we see him get a bit more work than Arik Armstead did in his rookie year. Armstead played in 375 snaps (32.9 percent of total defensive snaps), and was third on the team behind Ian Williams (57.8 percent) and Quinton Dial (56.3 percent). Glenn Dorsey’s injury threw off some of the numbers, so his and Williams’ potential returns will impact some of the nickel and dime work as well.

1 (7). DeForest Buckner, DT, Oregon
1 (28). Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford (best case/worst case)
3 (5). Will Redmond, CB, Mississippi State (best case/worst case)
4 (35). Rashard Robinson, CB, LSU (best case/worst case)
5 (3). Ronald Blair, DE, Appalachian State (best case/worst case)
5 (6). John Theus, OT, Georgia (best case/worst case)
5 (35). Fahn Cooper, OT, Ole Miss
6 (32). Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech (best case/worst case)
6 (36). Kelvin Taylor, RB, Florida (best case/worst case)
6 (38). Aaron Burbridge, WR, Michigan State (best case/worst case)
7 (28). Prince Charles Iworah, CB, Western Kentucky