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DeForest Buckner an easy inclusion for top 25 under 25, but who might be next?

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The 49ers have some intriguing young talent, particularly on defense.

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Last fall, the San Francisco 49ers entered the 2017 season with the ninth youngest Week 1 starting lineup. We’ve seen some turnover once again, and it is a good bet we’ll see them get younger in some areas once again. NaVorro Bowman, Daniel Kilgore, Brandon Fusco, and Brian Hoyer are all players who will be replaced by younger options.

Now that the draft is behind us, we’re seeing roster breakdowns that focus in on the best and brightest of the younger players. On Wednesday, CBS Sports ranked the top 25 players under the age of 25. A day later, Pro Football Focus put together the same ranking, albeit with plenty of differences.

Both lists had DeForest Buckner representing the 49ers. CBS had Buckner ranked No. 16, while PFF had him ranked No. 4. CBS Sports had running backs in four of their top six spots, while PFF had no running backs until No. 9. Here’s what they each had to say about Buckner.

CBS Sports

Buckner has flown under the radar. First, he was stuck on an awful 49ers team. Then, when the 49ers got good at the end of this past season, new quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo got all the acclaim. Now, as the 49ers enter the 2018 season full of hype and expectations, all the attention is focused on Garoppolo and new cornerback Richard Sherman. Don’t forget about Buckner who, as a defensive tackle, has already acquired nine sacks in two seasons. Per PFF, he tied with Damon “Snacks” Harrison as the sixth-best interior defensive lineman last season. Only Aaron Donald, Geno Atkins, Fletcher Cox, Kawann Short, and Ndamukong Suh placed higher.

PFF

Buckner established himself among the elite this past season by putting up a 90.4 overall grade. He was incredibly disruptive as a pass-rusher where he racked up the fifth-most pressures among interior defenders with 52 and tied for the most combined hits and sacks with 23. He’s done this all on an incredible amount of playing time, as since entering the league in 2016, no interior defender has played more than Buckner’s 1,873 snaps.

CBS had Reuben Foster as one of their honorable mentions, and that got me thinking about the rest of the 49ers under the age of 25. The 49ers website includes every player’s age. The eight players with ** next to their name turn 25 before the end of this calendar year. The soonest is Joe Williams on September 4th.

But from this list, who would be the next best options behind Buckner? Who would be the names we’ll see a year from now on this kind of list. For the 23-year olds, Ahkello Witherspoon and Mike McGlinchey both have a shot to make a particularly big impact this year and potentially climb into such a ranking. Dante Pettis and Solomon Thomas are two to watch among the 22-year olds, while Kendrick Bourne’s role could also move him into a better situation. The youngest group is all defense, and while all are behind starters at the moment, opportunities can always develop.

24

QB CJ Beathard**
RB Joe Williams**
WR Trent Taylor
WR Aaron Burbridge**
WR Max McCaffrey
TE George Kittle**
TE Cole Wick*
OT Pace Murphy
OG Joshua Garnett
OL Erik Magnuson
OL Andrew Lauderdale**
DL DeForest Buckner
DL Arik Armstead**
LB Reuben Foster
LB Eli Harold
LB Pita Taumoepenu
FS Adrian Colbert**
S Tyvis Powell

23

QB Nick Mullens
RB Matt Breida
WR Victor Bolden, Jr.
TE Cole Hikutini
TE Ross Dwelley
OT Mike McGlinchey
C Alan Knott
DL Sheldon Day
DL D.J. Jones
DL Jullian Taylor
CB Ahkello Witherspoon
CB Greg Mabin
SS Chanceller James
SS Marcell Harris
S Corey Griffin
P Bradley Pinion

22

QB Jack Heneghan
RB Jeremy McNichols
RB Jeff Wilson
WR Kendrick Bourne
WR Dante Pettis
WR Richie James
WR Steven Dunbar
OL Jamar McGloster
OL Coleman Shelton
DL Solomon Thomas
DL Kentavius Street
DL Niles Scott
DL Najee Toran
DL Blaine Woodson
LB Elijah Lee
CB Emmanuel Moseley

21

LB Fred Warner
CB Tarvarius Moore
CB D.J. Reed
CB Tarvarus McFadden
S Terrell Wiliams