With the No. 7 pick in the 2016 NFL draft, the 49ers select Oregon DE DeForest Buckner.
The 49ers take who the Chargers should have taken with the third overall pick. Unlike Joey Bosa, Buckner actually is the best defensive lineman in this class, with the ability to dominate everywhere from head-over nose tackle to wide-nine defensive end. He is not a carbon copy of Arik Armstead, the former Oregon teammate the 49ers took in the first round last year—Armstead is half the player Buckner is right now. Buckner looks like a faster, more flexible Calais Campbell with all of Campbell's power. This is a major boost for a San Francisco defense that has lost more than its share of stars over the last two seasons.
Strengths: Buckner possesses a rare combination of size, strength and speed. Can play everywhere from head-over-nose to nine-tech defensive end with very little drop-off in effectiveness. Splits gaps right off the snap, using low get-off and the sense to get skinny right away. Works the blocker to force the leverage disadvantage; has the strength to rock guys right off their angles. Brings tremendous power from his huge hands and will occasionally just throw an offensive lineman aside. Arm length combined with upper-body power allows him to bend linemen back and take them out of the play. Establishes dominance from the start of the play with great hand-punches, forcing blockers to recover. Uses rip-and-swim moves to work his way around opponents quickly, and can gear up to the pocket from there. Agile enough to chase ballcarriers from sideline to sideline, and drop into coverage. Re-directs well for his size to move back into the play; stops multiple plays downfield. Gets his hands up to deflect passes even when he can't get to the quarterback. Startling short-area speed—at times, Buckner just zips across gaps to the ballcarrier. Draws a ton of double-teams and chips and holds; will likely do the same at the next level. Handled many top-level blockers, and truly dominated some. Played more snaps than any other interior defensive lineman last year and didn't wear down
Weaknesses: As you’d expect from someone of his height, Buckner must maintain a low position to be truly effective—he can get lost in the wash and overpowered even by single blockers when he comes off the snap too high. Pad level affects his recovery speed negatively at times. Loses ground to slide protection and needs to move and work with his hands to blast through. Outside pass-rush is still a work in progress—Buckner doesn’t bend the edge consistently and needs to use his inside counter more. Needs to be more consistent when slipping off blocks to stop run plays inside. Doesn’t always guess right on angles and gaps, and can be sealed to the outside when trying to recover. Needs to get lower and nastier against double teams.