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DeForest Buckner ranks No. 43 on PFF offseason rankings

His strong performance in an iron man role gives him a boost.

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NFL Network has been rolling through their top 100 players of 2018, and thus far we have seen a pair of San Francisco 49ers on the list. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo showed up at No. 90, and cornerback Richard Sherman ranked No. 64. Carlos Hyde ranked No. 97 but is off to Cleveland this year, and since NFL Network is not clear on how voting works, it’s hard to say how much this ranking is supposed to factor in his 2017 season.

Given the lack of clarity to NFL Network’s rankings, it can be instructive to compare them with the annual Pro Football Focus offseason rankings. PFF is going with a top 50 this year, and has posted spots 31-50. They will be releasing 21-30 on Wednesday evening, but in the meantime, 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner slotted in at No. 43.

His value on the list comes from his ability to put together regularly productive snaps while playing at an iron man-like level.

One of the league’s true iron men, Buckner has been in the league for just two seasons and has already seen 1,873 snaps of action on defense, and that’s after seeing his workload cut significantly from his rookie season. Add that to his college career in which he rarely left the field (1,923 snaps in his final two seasons) and you have a player with outstanding durability and capacity to produce despite a monster workload. In 2017, he became a true force for the 49ers, notching 52 total pressures as an interior pass-rusher. He is a top-quality player on the rise.

We’ve seen all sorts of positive commentary on Buckner this offseason. His pressures and QB hits are among the best in the league. They suggest a player on the verge of a huge breakout campaign, but how much will that depend on getting some consistent support around him? If Arik Armstead can stay healthy the whole year, that would be big. Health remains an issue, but Armstead has had a high PFF pass rush productivity number when healthy. Having a pair of hosses in the defensive interior on passing downs will be huge, but getting some regular support from the edge rushers could be just as critical to opening up more holes on the interior.

Buckner is likely to continue getting extensive work, but ideally we see Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Sheldon Day, and Ronald Blair among the players who help spell him a bit. Earl Mitchell will likely start next to Buckner in the 4-3, with D.J. Jones potentially earning some rotational time. But, when the team moves to their nickel and dime, where they’ll spend the majority of their snaps, Armstead, Thomas, Day, and Blair all could make their hay. Buckner is the best player on this defense, but getting a nice rotation to rest him a bit would be helpful in developing the defensive depth.