*DL grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.

After extensive time studying DeForest Buckner's tape and data as a prospect for the NFL Draft, my conclusion is…'I don't know what to think'. I am figuratively just throwing my hands up in the air and shrugging my shoulders. Perplexed on one hand, inspired on the other.

You think he's going to be another big, goofy D-Line overhyped/bust from Oregon like Dion Jordan and Arik Armstead…I don't know that I can fight you on that thought.

You want to argue that DeForest Buckner is possibly the #1 overall prospect for the 2016 NFL Draft…I don't know that I could fight you on that either.

I lean more towards the side that he's possibly the #1 prospect in this draft.

Buckner's draft study is a mixed bag of conflicting numbers and theory. Let me start with the positive: He's a ‘freak’. Buckner is 6′7″/291 with hands that measure nearly a foot long (11.75″). He was an excellent producer at Oregon, the PAC 12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Buckner is not merely a box score stuffer. His tape is really good too. The guy is nonstop on every snap and plays to the whistle. He pushes blockers back with power but is nimble enough to shed a block to make a tackle on a ballcarrier. Watching him play by play for several games, I have nothing but respect for the way Buckner plays the game.

On the downside: 5.05 40-time at the NFL Combine…that's a killer for a DE prospect. It's too slow for the NFL, in theory. You cannot stick DeForest Buckner on the edge and ask him to pressure the backfield with 5.05 speed in the NFL. He will be held up or moved away from the play too easily in the NFL. Buckner is far too slow to be a 4-3 edge-rusher, with the fear that he's really not all that wonderful as a 3-4 defensive end either. If you play him at defensive end in the NFL, it probably has to be in a 3-4 scheme. As a 3-4 scheme DE prospect, I could not take Buckner in the first round of the draft…especially not in the top five, as he usually projects.

Here's where he could be the top prospect in this draft: moving him strictly to a 4-3 scheme defensive tackle. I could try to tell you what he'd be like as a DT prospect, but our system really has no one like him to compare to at this position. He would be a DT 'freak'. Imagine a 6′7″/290+ pound human being pushing up the middle, but more importantly reaching out to bat away passes over the middle. His speed for a defensive end, even given his size, is not so hot for the NFL. However, judging him as a DT prospect, he's more on the speedy side, and very nimble…and a virtual giant.

When I watch tape of Buckner, I can see it…his best moments were him lined up as a 4-3 scheme defensive tackle up the middle. He was a strong enough college force that, as a 3-4 scheme defensive end at Oregon, he was able to become the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year. He just finds a way to make plays, but I think the 3-4 scheme actually hurt him as a producer, hampered his ability to become a weapon of mass destruction. I think in a different scheme, a 4-3 scheme with him up the middle at DT, he could've had radical college numbers and been hands-down the #1 prospect for this draft.

People compare him to Calais Campbell, and that makes a bunch of sense because they're identical in many physical ways, but I think Buckner is the better, more freakish version of Calais Campbell…and may be the harder worker.

I loved most everything I saw about DeForest Buckner playing in college, but I know his NFL Combine speed shows a limitation. I saw it on tape with him as a defensive end against better offensive linemen. As a DE prospect, I like Buckner marginally. As a DT prospect, I'm totally enthralled, and will consider him as the best DT prospect in the draft, and possibly the single-best prospect in the draft overall…given this weaker NFL Draft class.


DeForest Buckner, Through the Lens of Our DT Scouting Algorithm:

It's hard to use Buckner’s college performance as an indicator of NFL success at defensive tackle, when so much of what he is known for is as a 3-4 defensive end. Considering he was a slower college defensive end, he did register at least 0.5 sacks in every one of his last eight college games. He had at least 0.5 TFLs in all but one of his 13 games in 2015.

What I love is that at 6′7″/290+, Buckner was very active in all phases…he was a sound run-stopper, a very instinctual reader of the play, plus he always kept chasing the action no matter what. You think as a giant 3-4 DE, he was all sacks and TFLs, but he actually produced five or more tackles in a game in 11 of 13 games in 2015. In his final seven games in 2015, Buckner averaged 7.6 tackles per game…1.4 TFL and 1.0 sacks per game as well.

Accomplishing all these numbers happened as a 3-4 DE, but I believe if he'd played DT every snap, he might have doubled his TFL and sack numbers. He’s that much of a ‘freak’ as a DT in college.

Buckner was the sixth-slowest (40-time) DE prospect at the NFL Combine, but compare him to the DT prospects, and he was the 15th-fastest, which is middle of the pack, but his 5.05 was also a whisker away from the top five among the DT prospects. There were several DT prospects in the 5.00–5.05 range, which is a nice range for a DT prospect over 290+ pounds.

Buckner's three-cone time (7.51) sneaks into the top 10 best among 290+ pound DT prospects. He was outside the top 20 DE prospects with that same time.

In short, as a DE prospect, we would call Bucker a below-average athlete with nice reach/size. As a DT prospect, he is an above-average athlete with unheard-of reach/size.

The Historical DT Prospects to Whom DeForest Buckner Most Compares Within Our System:

Judging him as a DE prospect, you can see our computer grades on him aren't very good. Our grades on Calais Campbell were not wonderful either. We have a hard time grading/identifying with the slower but physically imposing DE prospects – usually, they are more disappointing than not in the NFL. I think worst-case Buckner is the next Calais Campbell as a DE…'good' but not revolutionary.

When you look at our grades of Buckner as a DT prospect, then you get a little/a lot more excited. Honestly, I don't even know if the grade fits or if any of the player comparisons we have work. There is nothing like DeForest Buckner in our system – trying to project him solely as a defensive tackle prospect. I see the names on this list, and I believe Buckner is better than all of them by a lot.

In the end, Buckner somewhat defies our system because there are so many things about him that our system has never seen. What it does see – it likes…at defensive tackle.

DT Grade



Draft Yr




Power Strgth

Speed Agility

Pass Rusher

Tackle rating

NT Profile









































Oklahoma St
























Penn State




















*A score of 8.00+ is where we see a stronger correlation of DTs going on to become NFL good/great/elite. A score of 10.00+ is more rarefied air in our system, and indicates a greater probability of becoming an NFL elite DT.

All of the DT ratings are based on a 0–10 scale, but a player can score negative, or above a 10.0 in certain instances.

Power-Strength Metrics = A combination of several measurements. An attempt to classify the DT prospect as more of a battle-in-the-trenches type of DT, and/or a DT prospect who has nose tackle capabilities.

Speed-Agility Metrics = A combination of several speed, agility, size measurements. A unique measuring system to look for DTs who profile for quickness, and/or a DT prospect who might have some DE capabilities.

Pass-Rusher Rating = A combination of physical measurables, and college performance, graded historically for future NFL profiling. In the simplest of terms, this is an attempt to classify whether a particular DT is likely to achieve high sack totals in the NFL. We know the ‘system’/scheme the DT goes on to play in has a part in future success...but so do the player’s skills and performance history.

Tackling Rating = A combination of physical measurables, and college performance, graded historically for future NFL profiling. In the simplest of terms, this is an attempt to classify the DT as one more likely to be involved in a heavy amount of tackles, tackles for a loss, and forced fumbles. Lower scoring DTs in this sub-category tend to be more pure ‘pluggers’, and not as active on the stat sheet. It also gives some insight of the ‘toughness’ of a player, if it is possible to quantify that (this is our attempt to).

NT Profile = This is an attempt to show which of these DT prospects has a profile to become a pure nose tackle/‘space-eater’ in the middle. It is not a 1–10 scale rating of a prospect’s skill/profile, it’s an attempt to point us in a direction of what this DT can be useful as (or not). Some DT prospects will grade off the charts on the NT profile, essentially a worst-case scenario of “put him in the middle and just let him be a wall.” There is NFL value in that ‘ability’.


2016 NFL Draft Outlook:

Most mock drafts show Buckner among the top 5–10 overall prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft, and we do not disagree. Mostly, he's a top five projection, and I think that makes a lot of sense. Again, I think the argument could be made that he's the #1 prospect overall, but with reasonable risk that he might just be OK/good. On draft day, I would guess that Buckner will go among the top five picks…he's too much of a freak in a draft of almost no freaks.

If I were an NFL GM, and I had a top three overall pick, let's say, I would really be debating on whether I should take Buckner or not. With a high draft pick, I want ‘freaks’ but I also want sure things. Buckner is a ‘freak’, but I'm not sure about the 'sure thing' part. I think he is going to be good no matter what…with limited chance at being a Dion Jordan-like bust, but I'm not 100% sure. However, this draft is filled with 'I am not 100% sure' players…so I could take Buckner among the top three. I could possibly take him #1 overall.

NFL Outlook:   

Buckner's NFL journey will be all about what team drafted him, and what scheme they put him in. As a 3-4 scheme DE, I'm sure he'll be fine…I guess. He's just not going to rack up a lot of sacks unless his surroundings help produce it. As a 4-3 DT, he may be a 'mini' J.J. Watt…a menace up the middle who is constantly batting down passes and controlling the middle of the field. He's an intriguing weapon, and I can't wait to see how the NFL uses him…but it better be at defensive tackle.