Over the course of this offseason, we have heard plenty about the 2017 production of San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. He ranks first among interior defensive linemen in quarterback hits, PFF ranked him in their top 50, he thinks he can develop that extra step needed to pile up the sacks, and his teammates have started calling him DPOY (Defensive Player of the Year).
While 49ers fans and players are recognizing Buckner’s potential, it’s safe to say the national coverage is not quite the same. He’s not being entirely ignored, but the more general media seems to focus on Richard Sherman and Reuben Foster when it comes to the 49ers defense.
I was recently poking around SkyBet, and they have odds for 2018 Defensive Player of the Year. Aaron Donald tops the list at 5/1, followed by J.J. Watt and Khalil Mack at 6/1. For the 49ers, Reuben Foster is installed at 40/1, Ahkello Witherspoon is at 50/1, and Richard Sherman is installed at 100/1. The one player not listed? DeForest Buckner.
SkyBet is based in the United Kingdom, but it’s not like they would just throw up random odds without researching it. And while Buckner should not be installed as a favorite by any stretch, he should be on the odds list. Reuben Foster is high profile enough that if he stays healthy and the 49ers defense improves, I can see him getting some consideration. Interceptions are sufficiently high profile that I could see Witherspoon building perception with a big year. And of course, Sherman is Sherman.
But, if Buckner can find that next step and potentially get into double digit sacks, he could be an intriguing option in the DPOY debate. This is assuming a lot, but he seems right on the verge of taking that big next step. Can he do it?