Safeties and defensive backs will bring the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine to a close today at Lucas Oil Stadium, and the final group of NFL hopefuls will travel home to prepare for college pro days prior to the NFL Draft later this spring.
Defensive linemen and linebackers put on a show Sunday in Indianapolis. These position groups are believed to contain this year’s strongest prospects, in a class that includes Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, Mississippi’s Robert Nkemdiche and, of course, Oregon’s DeForest Buckner.
DE Buckner sits at the top of his position group, holding the highest draft grade among defensive linemen – a score of 7.3. According to NFL.com, he is a projected “Pro Bowl to All-Pro” player. Buckner has proven to be disruptive on the field, and he is expected to fit well in any defensive front.
Prior to the on-field workouts, Buckner officially measured 6’7 and weighed in at 291 lbs. His hand size has been a popular topic of conversation among scouts this week, as the 11-3/4″ measurement is tied for largest in combine history (Gosder Cherilus, 2003). As College Spun put it – that’s larger than a standard 8-1/2 x 11 sheet of paper.
Buckner’s draft profile notes his impressive NFL-ready physique, which was apparent as he towered over many of his peers and exhibited speed and flexibility Sunday.
NFL Draft analyst Mike Mayock ranks Buckner No. 1 on his list of interior defensive linemen, over Nkemdiche. The senior from Hawaii appeared in every game dating back to his freshman season at Oregon in 2012. Buckner was named 2015 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and was awarded the prestigious Morris Trophy (voted on by opposing Pac-12 linemen).
“Buckner is so powerful. He has movement skills, he’s fun to watch, and I think he has a pro bowl career ahead of him,” Mayock said Sunday. He drew comparisons to Arizona’s Calais Campbell.
“Players with this kind of length, power and quickness are rare,” Mayock continued.
Buckner participated in several measurable workouts along with on-field drills:
+ He ran the 40-yard dash in 5.05. Charles Tapper (Oklahoma) was fastest at 4.59 seconds.
+ Buckner reached 32″ in the vertical jump. Dadi Nicholas (Virginia Tech) led group at 41″.
+ He traveled 116″ in the broad jump. Alex McCalister (Florida) jumped farthest with 128″.
+ He completed the three-cone drill in 7.51 seconds. James Cowser (Southern Utah) had the fast time of 6.8 seconds.
+ His 20-yard shuttle time was 4.47 seconds. McCalister’s time was fastest at 4 seconds.
Buckner looked fast with good lower body movement, especially for his large size. His arm motion was tight and he displayed impressive running form in drills. Mayock and Rich Eisen commented on his tendency to complete drills a bit too quickly without enough attention to the exercise, but that’s more of a knock on attention to detail in the exercise than his real football skills.
When reviewing Buckner’s highlights, Mayock said, “I’ve seen him corkscrew guys into the ground. He’s really strong. [Buckner is] smart enough to pull off at the end (of blocks) so he doesn’t get a penalty.”
The consensus: Buckner is a solid Top-10 prospect who will be a very productive pass-rusher and help his NFL team immediately. His combine performance only solidified his stock.
Two months stand between Buckner and Round 1 of the draft in Chicago. Oregon’s pro day will take place March 14, when he will have another chance to impress scouts and coaches in Eugene. Watch out, pro offenses — DeForest Buckner is NFL-bound.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck