DeForest Buckner Ranked Among Best at Defensive Tackle

DeForest Buckner

Getty Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner was ranked among the best at his position in the NFL.

It will come as no surprise that a list compiling opinions from NFL executives, coaches, scouts and players voted No. 99 for the Los Angeles Rams, Aaron Donald, as the best defensive tackle in the NFL. But No. 99 for the Indianapolis Colts, DeForest Buckner, didn’t land too far behind Donald on the rankings.

The composite best-of list constructed by ESPN ranked Buckner as the fourth-best defensive tackle in the league. On the same list last year, Buckner was the No. 3 defensive tackle in the NFL.

“Buckner might be the most complete player on this list, save Donald,” staff writer Jeremy Fowler of ESPN wrote. “In each of the past four seasons, Buckner has produced at least seven sacks, 58 tackles and nine tackles for loss.

Besides Donald, the two other defensive tackles ranked ahead of Buckner on the ESPN composite best-of list were Jeffery Simmons and Chris Jones.

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Colts Acquiring Buckner was “Savvy Move”

Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard has traded the team’s first-round pick in three of the last four seasons. All those deals were different circumstances, as once the Colts traded out of the first round on draft day and on another occasion, their first-round pick went to the Philadelphia Eagles as a conditional selection in the deal for quarterback Carson Wentz.

The other trade that Ballard pulled off with a first-round pick was for Buckner in 2020. That was not only his best trade involving a Colts first-round selection, but one of Ballard’s better moves as Indianapolis’ general manager.

“One of Colts GM Chris Ballard’s savviest moves was acquiring Buckner via a trade with the 49ers two years ago,” Fowler wrote. “Since then, the Colts have had a perennial top-five player at the position with 16.5 sacks since 2020.”

An AFC scout also shared with Fowler how great Buckner has been since the trade.

“Tough, instinctive, needs to be accounted for in both phases,” an AFC scout told Fowler. “Routinely beats single blocks and is racking up the sack numbers since the trade with San Francisco.”

Buckner made the Pro Bowl in 2018 as a member of the San Francisco 49ers. He posted a career-high 12.0 sacks that season.

But he was arguably even better during his first season with the Colts in 2020, as he made All-Pro. Buckner again earned a spot the Pro Bowl team in 2021.

He has 45.0 sacks, 58 tackles for loss, 118 quarterback hits, 17 pass defenses and 5 forced fumbles in 95 career games.

Colts Defensive Front Built Through Trades

Buckner is not the only former Pro Bowl defensive lineman the Colts have traded for over the past two and a half years. Ballard also acquired defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in a deal for cornerback Rock Ya-Sin early in free agency this offseason.

Entering this season, Ballard and Ngakoue are the only pass rushers with more than 4.0 sacks in a season on the Colts roster.

Buckner is also not the only Colts defender to receive recognition from the composite best-of lists from ESPN. Fowler’s lists ranked Darius Leonard the No. 1 inside linebacker in the NFL.

With new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, Indianapolis is not likely to blitz very often. Over the past three seasons, Bradley-led defenses have finished dead last in the NFL in blitz percentage every year.

So the Colts will need their defensive line, half of which was built through trades, to put pressure on the quarterback. Most importantly, they will need Buckner to play like a top five defensive tackle in the league.

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