There’s no arguing with the value. It’s a solid pick that fits both the 49ers defense and the range they’re selecting at number 7. The upside is off the charts. Clearly, the 49ers were concerned about Tunsil’s off-field questions as it seemed a perfect situation to take the top prospect in the draft at a position of need. They’ve decided instead to play it relatively safe. There’s a lot to like about this though. He joins his former teammate Arik Armstead, also from Oregon, to continue upgrading what is now a talented and young front line.
It was a slight surprise that Buckner returned for his senior season, as he both far outplayed his teammate Arik Armstead (who went 15th overall last time to the 49ers) and is the far superior prospect. It was clear when watching Oregon in 2014 with both of the big lineman in the same team that Buckner offered more. It proved worthwhile in the end to wait though. After a slow start to his final year, including a poor showing in week 2 versus Michigan State in a pivotal game, his play by the end of the season was frighteningly good, especially against California and Oregon State. Buckner is only scratching the surface of what he can eventually be. His role within the Oregon defensive scheme doesn’t put him in a position to make the flashy plays on film often, but he fully embraces the task given to him by his coaches to eat up blocks, close the pocket, limit the run game and open lanes and opportunities for his teammates to make plays. When he is let loose to rush the passer, his combination of length and power is tough to stop. He’s more than a big body, with under-rated explosion off the snap. He’s arguably put to best use continuing as a 3-4 DE, but could play the edge in a 4-3 scheme too, or even shift primarily inside in 4-3’s. There’s plenty of fine-tuning required to his technique and his balance that can occasionally negate his other strengths, but Buckner flashes some excellent use of his hands and adds a nice swim move to his standard bull rush. He will unquestionably enter the NFL as a much more effective pass rusher than he would have a year ago. As well as continuing his outstanding tackling ability with 83 stops, his backfield stats greatly improved with 17 tackles for loss (TFLs) and 10.5 sacks, from his 13 TFLs and 4 sacks the previous season. The potential upside with Buckner is huge, and brings the right character and work ethic to encourage that he’ll be able to reach his ceiling.