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Seven defensive tackles that could replace Buckner: Should the 49ers make a run at Suh?

Someone has to fill the void that Buckner left.

Atlanta Falcons v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The San Francisco 49ers have a new toy to play with now that they have the No. 13 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Without DeForest Buckner, there is a glaring hole at defensive tackle. The 49ers have options, both in-house, on the market, and in the draft. For today, we’ll look at some veteran options to replace Buckner.

Swinging for the fences

D.J. Reader

If the 49ers want to continue making a splash, then Reader is the best option. He is a large human at 347 pounds, but that doesn’t mean Reader is a “plodding space-eating nose tackle.” He will make your guards look silly. Reader and D.J. Jones in the middle means Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander, and Dre Greenlaw will be free to run and chase down ball carriers without having to worry about being blocked. Reader can play both 1-technique and 3-technique. Reader can push the pocket or run around guards with his quickness. Spotrac projects him to make just under $12 million a season, so he could be out of the 49ers price range. Reader is the best player available at his position.

Shelby Harris

If Reader is the best available, Harris isn’t far behind. Harris lead all defensive lineman with nine batted passes in 2019. Harris didn’t have the numbers that most players, and that could help the 49ers land him. He’s a 300-pound tackle that is great on stunts and has the quickness to cause chaos. With the Niners, Harris will have plenty of production. Harris had six sacks and Q.B. hits, as well as eight tackles for loss. This signing wouldn’t make the waves it should, but Harris may be the best option to replace Buckner.

Veterans that make sense

Gerald McCoy

McCoy is on the wrong side of 30, but he can still play. There were plays for the Panthers this season, where McCoy showed plenty of quickness off the line of scrimmage as well as top-notch hand usage. He’d be a great fit in the locker room with his personality and leadership as well. For Carolina last year, McCoy had five sacks, 13 Q.B. hits, and seven tackles for loss. Playing next to Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford, any competent player, is going to have an impact. McCoy is more than competent. He’d be a great value signing.

Ndamukong Suh

Suh has a terrible rep among fans, but he is still a productive player. Suh isn’t as good as the two players listed above, but he’s not bad by any means. Suh had 39 total pressures on 25 stops for Tampa Bay in 2019. He remains a fantastic run defender, but his play against the pass has taken a step back. Suh is another player that would benefit from the talent around him, but I’m not sure how his fit would be in the locker room.

Thanks, but no thanks

Linval Joseph

Joseph was a monster in 2017, and for three years prior, but the last two seasons, Joseph has been closer to average than good. Joseph is no longer getting after the quarterback. At 31-years-old, that’s not going to start improving. Joseph missed two games with an injury during the regular season, and also missed the playoff game against the 49ers. In 2018, he dealt with knee and shoulder injuries as well. No thanks.

Michael Pierce

If the Ravens let Pierce get to free agency, that’s enough for me. Seriously though, he’s a 340-pound man that is more of a nose tackle than Reader is. Pierce flashes as a pass rusher, but there isn’t much that he does better than D.J. Jones. Pierce is primarily a two-gap run stopper and less of a pass-rushing threat. Because of that, and the limited snap counts Pierce plays, he’s not a replacement for Buckner.

One Bargain

Timmy Jernigan

Jernigan would be a player that you rely on by the committee to replace Buckner. He’s not much of a pass-rushing threat, but Jernigan is a very good run defender that is a smart and cheap option. He could give Jones a blow as well.