The San Francisco 49ers got their rookies onto the field last Sunday for their first NFL game action. Will Redmond was unable to play, but otherwise, all the 49ers rookies got playing time. It takes multiple years to fully assess each rookie, but clearly we can start overreacting after one preseason game!
NFL analyst Bucky Brooks took a look at all 32 teams and graded one key rookie on each team after the first week of preseason action. For the 49ers, he focused on defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, giving him a B.
The long, rangy defender didn't make an immediate impact on the 49ers' defense, but he showed flashes of being a solid cog in the wheel for the team's front line against the Texans on Sunday. The seventh overall pick battled at the line of scrimmage against the run on the way to notching three tackles on the day. He needs to play with a lower pad level to avoid getting pushed around at the point of attack, but he can build off a solid debut performance to grow into his role as a contributor.
The 49ers spent the seventh overall pick on Buckner, and he has quickly worked his way up the depth chart. He opened OTAs and minicamp on the third string defensive line, but quickly moved into starter work in training camp. He has rotated with Mike Purcell depending on the package the 49ers are using, but Arik Armstead’s shoulder injury last week got Buckner into the starting lineup against the Texans.
Buckner has the skillset in place where he just needs to get reps and get used to the NFL speed. With Armstead’s shoulder injury, Ian Williams’s placement on IR, and the team taking their time with Glenn Dorsey, the preseason is providing a lot of opportunities for Buckner. If he can just build on them each week, he could impact this defense from Week 1 of the regular season.