DeForest Buckner

West Notes: 49ers, Cardinals, Ford

The 49ers have used three first-round picks on defensive linemen since 2015, and each of those figures to be in the starting lineup Sunday. With Tank Carradine on IR, Solomon Thomas will likely start at San Francisco’s strong-side defensive end spot, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee notes. The 49ers have used Thomas as an edge defender, but DC Robert Saleh envisions the No. 2 overall pick as a “premier inside rusher” once he develops. Saleh said Thomas “could be a good edge rusher,” so it’s clear the first-year 49ers coordinator wants to see how the Stanford product functions from a defensive tackle spot.

We do need to find ways to get him inside to rush the passer a little bit more,” Saleh said, via Barrows.

The 49ers, though, used first-round picks on interior defenders Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner the previous two years. Buckner rates as Pro Football Focus’ No. 3 interior defender, behind only J.J. Watt and Ndamukong Suh, through three games. The new-look 49ers defensive staff wanted to decrease Buckner’s workload upon being hired, Saleh calling it “criminal” for Buckner to exceed 1,000 snaps as he did as a rookie, but Barrows observes those stances softening as the season’s begun. At 179 defensive plays, Buckner is on pace for nearly the 1,005 snaps he played last season now. Injuries to Carradine and Ronald Blair, and the release of current Packers cog Quinton Dial, has thinned out a potential 49ers D-line rotation.

Here’s the latest from the Western divisions.

  • The Cardinals are not receiving Jared Veldheer‘s best work thus far this season. The team’s move of the veteran left tackle to the right side has not gone well, and Veldheer might be playing in his final Arizona season. While Veldheer took a day away from the team to consider leaving football earlier this year, Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com notes (on Twitter) the veteran lineman would like to return in 2018. However, Jurecki does not expect him to stay with the Cardinals. Veldheer’s in the fourth season of a five-year, $35MM deal — one that includes a $10.25MM cap hold for 2018. He profiles as a cap casualty at this point.
  • Deone Bucannon will make his season debut after an extensive layoff due to an ankle injury. Bruce Arians confirmed the inside linebacker will be ready to suit up in Week 4. Haason Reddick, the fill-in player here, will likely start Sunday while Bucannon is gradually worked back into the fold, per Arians.
  • The Chiefs, though, will be without a key front-seven piece in their Week 4 game. Dee Ford will miss Kansas City’s Monday-night home game against Washington. With Tamba Hali already being conserved for the stretch run via the PUP list, this will leave the AFC West leaders thin at outside linebacker. Ford’s dealing with a back injury.
  • The gap between Brian Hoyer and C.J. Beathard remains too wide for the 49ers to consider a quarterback change, Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com writes. Hoyer’s system knowledge giving the embattled 49ers their best chance to win now makes him unlikely to be unseated any time soon, Maiocco notes.

Extra Points: 49ers, Buckner, Texans, Moore

Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner played more than 1,000 snaps during his rookie campaign with the 49ers last year, a figure that new defensive coordinator Robert Saleh calls “criminal,” as Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee writes. Not only will San Francisco be transitioning to a 4-3 front in 2017, but the club will look to run a rotation along the defensive line in an effort to keep individual players fresh. 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead should see his snaps increase during the upcoming season, while the additions of No. 3 overall selection Solomon Thomas and free agent signees Earl Mitchell and Elvis Dumervil will also give the 49ers more options up front. San Francisco ranked 20th in adjusted sack rate and 29th in adjusted line yards.

Here’s more from around the NFL:

  • The Texans recently added a pair of depth veterans in offensive tackle Breno Giacomini and linebacker Sio Moore, but neither player will take up much cap room in 2017, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter links). Giacomini, who’s expected to help fill in at right tackle for the injured Derek Newton, will receive a $750K signing bonus, a non-guaranteed base salary of $1MM, and can earn up to $1MM in gameday active roster bonuses. Moore, meanwhile, will come even cheaper, as he’s on a minimum salary benefit deal. As such, he can earn $775K while only counting for $615K on the Texans’ cap.
  • While running back contracts are on the fiscal decline, deals for backs are increasingly reliant on incentive-based pay, as Joel Corry of CBSSports.com explains. Recent pacts for veterans such as Latavius Murray, Marshawn Lynch, and Adrian Peterson all contain some sort of performance-based money, whether through bonuses or escalators. Those clauses can often artificially inflate the value of contracts — in the case of Peterson, for example, more than 50% of his deal’s maximum value comes in the form of incentives.
  • While it’s a strategy that could be viewed as dangerous to the integrity of the game or a smart tactic in order to rebuild, “tanking” has afflicted the NFL in the past few seasons in the forms of the Browns and (certainly in 2017) the Jets. If the league wants to force teams to be competitive, it could institute an NBA-esque lottery system for the draft, as Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk opines. By giving each of the 20 non-playoff teams the same chance to earn the No. 1 overall pick, the NFL could dissuade clubs from failing to put forth a full effort.

Impact Rookies: San Francisco 49ers

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

Out of eleven selections, we here at The NFL Draft Report only see one 49ers draft pick making a significant mark in 2016.

First Round – DeForest Buckner, DL (Oregon, No. 7 overall)

A “tall drink of water” at a shade over 6:07, Buckner entered the 2015 bowl season having produced 225 tackles (104 solos) that included seventeen sacks (eleventh on the school career-record chart) for -118 yards. His 34.5 stops-for-loss ranked ninth in Oregon history, good for losses of 154 yards. Additionally, he registered thirty quarterback pressures, with six of those hurries causing interceptions, as Oregon converted those turnovers into touchdown drives. He also caused three fumbles and recovered two others that led to Ducks scores. DeForest Buckner

Buckner has outstanding size and a developing frame, adding fifteen pounds of solid muscle mass to it during the 2015 off-season. He has a solid upper body frame, with a wide back, long arms, good lower body strength and room on his frame for additional growth. He has broad shoulders, good bubble, thick thighs and a tight waist. He has a very long torso, arms and legs. A well-proportioned athlete with good upper body muscle development, he has good shoulder size and width, large hands, good bubble, thick thighs, and calves.

The Oregon standout has incredible moves off the edge and can change direction immediately. Buckner shows very good hip strike on contact and is a normal strider who plays with leverage and above average body quickness. He has the burst to penetrate and balance much like a linebacker. Buckner can be an “elephant” (hybrid rush end/linebacker) or just a tenacious defensive end with a high motor and excellent intensity.

From a sheer strength point, Buckner has more natural power than you would expect. He generates a good jolt in his hips and hands to rock the offensive tackle back on his heels during the bull rush. He has more than enough speed and explosion to get an edge. Despite his size, he is stronger than he looks, as he plays with leverage and keeps his pads down, making it tough to block him head-on. He rarely ever gets washed by some down blocks, as he can simply overpower his opponent when heading up the gut (see 2015 Washington, California, Arizona State, and Stanford games). He is best coming off the edge, but he has that long reach and strong hand punch to play off the offensive tackle and quickly locate the ball in backside pursuit. In 33 games of film view, he has never been widened or steered away from the play in any phase.

Last season, Buckner honed his wrap-up tackling technique and became more explosive in that area. The 6’7″, 287 pound athlete is fun to watch as he stalks, chases, wraps, and drags down the ball carrier, as he looks like a spider engulfing the ball carrier to get a piece of the opponent’s body. When he is closing on the quarterback, he shows even more explosion. He is best in open quarters, but he has more than enough power to battle in-line.

As a rookie, Buckner is being slotted in as a starting defensive end in the Niners’ 3-4 alignment. With 2015 first-round pick Arik Armstead at the other bookend and 26-year-old Quinton Dial in the middle, this is a young defensive line that will grow together. Expect Buckner to impress right out of the gate and show the world why he was a Top 10 pick in this year’s draft.

Dave-Te Thomas owns and operates The NFL Draft Report, a service providing insight to league scouting departments for over 40 years. All year round, you can read Thomas’ in-depth reviews of both blue chip prospects and diamonds in the rough by visiting the NFL Draft Report blog.

Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

49ers Sign DeForest Buckner, Draftees, UDFAs

The 49ers have confirmed the previously-reported signings of sixth-round draft picks Kelvin Taylor and Jeff Driskel, and announced nearly two dozen more roster moves to go along with those signings. In a press release, the Niners said they have waived four players from their 90-man roster, signed nine draft picks (including Taylor and Driskel), and added 12 undrafted free agents to the mix.DeForest Buckner

San Francisco’s most notable transaction is the signing of defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, who becomes the highest-drafted player to ink his rookie contract so far. Buckner, a standout at Oregon, was snagged by the 49ers with the seventh overall pick in last week’s draft, and is in line for a four-year contract worth more than $18.19MM, including a signing bonus of approximately $11.43MM. His deal also features a fifth-year option for 2020.

Listed below are the other draftees signed today by the 49ers, in addition to Buckner, Taylor, and Driskel. Only first-round guard Joshua Garnett and third-round defensive back Will Redmond are still unsigned:

While the 49ers had plenty of space on their roster for their draft picks, the team didn’t have much extra flexibility to add more than a handful of undrafted free agents. As such, San Francisco has cut four veterans: offensive lineman Jordan Devey, kicker Corey Acosta, running back Kendall Gaskins, and quarterback Dylan Thompson.

Devey is perhaps the most notable name in this group — the 49ers didn’t make many headlines when they acquired him from the Patriots in a trade for tight end Asante Cleveland last August, but Devey unexpectedly made his way into the club’s starting lineup to open the season. Although he was replaced down the stretch, the 28-year-old made nine starts and played nearly 400 offensive snaps for San Francisco in 2015.

With a few spots cleared on their 90-man roster, the Niners officially added 12 undrafted free agents. Here’s the full list of those UDFAs:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Schrager’s Latest: Chargers, Buckner, Lynch

Here’s the latest from Peter Schrager of FOX Sports (all links to go Twitter):

Pauline’s Latest: Falcons, Neal, Joseph, Titans

Cal quarterback Jared Goff and North Dakota State signal-caller Carson Wentz are widely expected to come off the board in that order with the top two picks on Thursday night, but there’s some uncertainty about how the next several picks will play out.

After speaking to several people around the league, Tony Pauline of WalterFootball.com takes a shot at forecasting how picks three through eight will go. In Pauline’s view, the most probable scenario would see DeForest Buckner land with the Chargers, Jalen Ramsey to the Cowboys, Myles Jack to the Jaguars, Laremy Tunsil to the Ravens, Ronnie Stanley to the 49ers, and Joey Bosa to the Browns.

Ezekiel Elliott is a wild card – if he’s still on the board at No. 8, the Browns could potentially trade down with a team like the Dolphins – but otherwise Pauline’s predictions for the top eight seem entirely plausible. According to the draft scribe, the Chargers feel like they “desperately” need to add a standout defensive lineman, while the 49ers also covet Buckner, so that’s a situation worth watching too.

Here’s more from Pauline:

  • While Ohio State linebacker Darron Lee has frequently been linked to the Falcons at No. 17, Pauline hears that Clemson linemen Kevin Dodd and Shaq Lawson are also in play. According to Pauline, head coach Dan Quinn has been pushing for the team to select safety Keanu Neal, though that’s probably only a possibility if Atlanta trades down.
  • Washington wouldn’t mind trading down and nabbing West Virginia safety Karl Joseph, says Pauline.
  • According to Pauline, there’s a decent chance that the Titans will use one of their second-round picks to grab Ohio State wideout Braxton Miller, assuming the team doesn’t use any of those selections in a trade. Tennessee will also likely consider Buckeyes linebacker Joshua Perry on day two.
  • The Broncos plan on drafting a running back on day three, and Pauline hears that they like Auburn’s Peyton Barber in the neighborhood of the sixth round.
  • Teams are already talking to prospects and their agents in an effort to sign those players as undrafted free agents after the draft, and some clubs are creating “bad blood” with their approach to this process. According to Pauline, a couple teams have called potential UDFA targets and told them that they’re unlikely to be drafted. Those players are still optimistic about being mid-round selections, so being told that they’re likely to go undrafted has soured those players (and their agents) on those teams, per Pauline.

Draft Rumors: Jackson, Buckner, Chargers

NFL GMs have yet to get the results of combine drug tests, but there are already rumors swirling about failed tests for prospects, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report tweets. Among the rumors is that a likely first-round pick has flunked his test.

While we wait to see if a top prospect has hurt his stock, let’s take a look at the latest NFL Draft rumors:

  • Matt Miller of Bleacher Report (on Twitter) is becoming more and more convinced that William Jackson III will be the second cornerback to come off the board in the draft, following Jalen Ramsey. Reading between the lines, that could indicate a drop on draft boards for Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
  • Deforest Buckner told Justin Hopkins of 247 Sports (Twitter link) that he is hearing from the Chargers, Cowboys, Jaguars, and Titans “pretty regularly.” The Chargers, Cowboys, and Jaguars all had previously reported workouts with Buckner, but the addition of the Titans is new.
  • Clemson inside linebacker B.J. Goodson is visiting the Colts and Giants this week, a league source tells Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. Goodson, who has also visited with the Jets, has had 15 total visits and private workouts. Goodson had 108 tackles last season with 14 tackles for losses and 5.5 sacks.
  • Louisiana Tech Kenneth Dixon spent Wednesday with the Texans, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). He has also had pre-draft visits with the Ravens and Patriots, Rapoport adds. As previously reported, Dixon also met with San Francisco.
  • Northwestern fullback Dan Vitale is drawing the most interest from the Buccaneers, Patriots, and Bears, freelance reporter Jenna Laine tweets. Vitale has drawn interest because of his ability to play fullback, H-back, and tight end.

Draft Rumors: Elliott, Titans, Cook, Butler

Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is expected to be the first player off the board at his position, and is receiving attention from several teams picking in the first half of the first round. As Albert Breer of the NFL Network tweets, Elliott said during an appearance on NFL Total Access that he has visits lined up with the Eagles (No. 8), Bears (No. 11), and Dolphins (No. 13). He has also previously met with Dallas.

With NFL teams focused on working out and meeting with players who may end up on their rosters about three weeks from now, let’s round up a few more draft updates….

  • Deadlines typically spur action in the NFL, which means the best trade offer for the No. 1 pick may not be on the table for the Titans until draft night. Still, as Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com details, GM Jon Robinson isn’t opposed to the idea of making a deal in advance, suggesting it would give his team the opportunity to make plans accordingly. In the meantime, Tennessee continues to take a close look at top prospects, and will bring in Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner on Monday, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
  • ESPN’s Jon Gruden believes that Michigan State’s Connor Cook “is gonna be perhaps the best quarterback in this draft” (Twitter link from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com).
  • Gil Brandt of NFL.com (Twitter link) adds the Lions and Patriots to the list of clubs that have worked out Louisiana Tech defensive tackle Vernon Butler. The Lions have also met with Jordan Jenkins, as the Georgia linebacker confirmed on SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link via Alex Marvez of FOX Sports).
  • Marvez also passes along an update from a SiriusXM NFL Radio appearance by Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen, who said he has had workouts or meetings with the Buccaneers, Panthers, Falcons, and Cowboys (Twitter link).
  • In addition to attending local workouts for the Jets and Giants, Rutgers wideout Leonte Carroo is paying visits to the Dolphins and Patriots, a source tells Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post. Carroo had an explosive college career, averaging 19.5 yards per reception and racking up 29 touchdowns over the last three seasons.

AFC Draft Updates: Bills, Lynch, Jags, Broncos

Most NFL teams have at least one representative in attendance at the pro day for Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch on Wednesday, but the Bills got a closer look at the young signal-caller on Tuesday night, according to Sal Paolantonio of ESPN, who reports that Buffalo took Lynch out for dinner (Twitter link via Mike Rodak).

The Bills have a quarterback they like in Tyrod Taylor, but Taylor has just one year remaining on his contract with the team, and an extension is not believed to be close, so it will be interesting to see if Buffalo nabs a QB early in this year’s draft. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman is in Memphis to check out Lynch.

Let’s round up a few more draft updates from across the AFC…

Cowboys Draft Rumors: Buckner, Boykin, Coleman

The Cowboys are slated to be on the clock at No. 4 overall and they appear to be especially intrigued by one top prospect. The latest out of Dallas:

  • Oregon defensive end Deforest Buckner worked out for the Cowboys last week, Rand Getlin of NFL.com tweets. Dallas appears to be pretty intrigued by him as they will be his next visit.
  • TCU quarterback/wide receiver Trevone Boykin will work out for the Cowboys on April 8th, according to Charean Williams of the Star-Telegram (on Twitter).
  • Baylor wide receiver Corey Coleman will spend tomorrow working out for the Cowboys, a source tells Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (on Twitter). Coleman is widely regarded as one of the top wide receivers in this year’s class along with Laquon Treadwell, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson, Tyler Boyd, and Michael Thomas.
  • The Cowboys had a private workout with Tennessee receiver Marquez North, according to Williams (Twitter link).