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Armstead cracks the top 10 of ESPN’s interior defensive lineman rankings

Buckner was No. 4 on the list

Super Bowl LIV - San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Another day, another ranking from ESPN. Today is interior defensive lineman, which means Arik Armstead should be somewhere in the top 10 after his 2019 season. Before we get there, his former running mate, DeForest Buckner, was No. 4 on the list. Buckner had a top-seven vote on all 50 ballots, which was better than J.J. Watt. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Buckner, who I still think will improve as a player.

Someone ranked Armstead as high as the second-best interior defensive lineman in the league!

7. Arik Armstead, San Francisco 49ers

Age: 26 | Highest ranking: 2 | Lowest ranking: 11

The money says Buckner ($21 million per year) is better than Armstead ($17.5 million), and some scouting reports do, too.

For now.

The 49ers knew what they were doing when they moved Buckner and kept Armstead.

“Buckner is better down in, down out, but Armstead — now that he’s healthy and in a good situation — put it all together (in 2019),” an NFL personnel man said. “He might have more in front of him than Buckner.”

After an 11-sack season, Armstead earned an 89.8 Pro Football Focus grade, one of the highest at his position. And with Nick Bosa and Dee Ford rushing off the edge in San Francisco, Armstead brings balance to the 49ers’ interior attack.

I agree that Armstead brings balance and will allow the 49ers to do more on defense than Buckner would have. If Bosa or Ford needs a blow, Armstead can replace them. If Javon Kinlaw or D.J. Jones needs a breather, Armstead can play there as well. You could line Buckner up on the edge, but he probably wasn’t going to get after the quarterback from there.

I am surprised that Armstead was listed as high as No. 2, and I’m also surprised, assuming there are more, that these many people feel Armstead is better than Buckner or will be down the line. The main difference between the two now is that DeFo has a go-to pass-rushing move, while Armstead wins with high effort and strength. If Arik does develop a pass-rushing repertoire, then the 49ers got a steal with the contract Armstead signed. He makes it easy to appreciate the way he plays, and he’s steadily improved before his production exploded last year.

So we saw Bosa No. 3, now Armstead No. 7. Where will the Niners linebackers land tomorrow?