He was snubbed a Pro Bowl invite and was excluded from the NFL's list of the top 100 players of 2017. He wasn't even mentioned in ESPN's all-under-25 starting lineup despite being the one of the league's most prominent young stars. How has DeForest Buckner managed to fly so under the radar despite the heaps of external expectations?
Even though Buckner led the NFL with 19 quarterback hits last season, he didn't garner much national attention as those hits resulted in just three sacks. However, Buckner isn't concerning himself with those slights as he enters Year 3.
"With all the outside noise, I block it out. Whether it's good or bad you need a level head especially on this level," Buckner said on Wednesday. "If you keep reading in to what this person said on what I'm doing bad or what I'm doing good and you feed into that, it takes you off track of your personal goals and what you're trying to accomplish."
An unflawed franchise quarterback as well as the league's longest active winning streak has created plenty of buzz surrounding the 49ers. But Buckner knows last season's successes are irrelevant as the team enters their first practice of a new year.
"Last year was last year. It's done. It's a whole new year. I think all the guys are striving for the feeling that we had last year," Buckner said. "It's a great feeling when you win. We had a taste of it last year and obviously it's over, so we've got to chase that feeling."
San Francisco set out to add talent to its young defense this offseason. Most notably, Richard Sherman was brought in to add stability and leadership to the 49ers secondary. The team also added ex-Los Angeles Chargers defensive lineman Jeremiah Attaochu to help alleviate the team's pass rush woes. It will take the entire group to transform the defense who owned the league's sixth-fewest sack total in 2017 (30).
"I've been working a lot this offseason to accomplish my goals, and with the new additions I feel like it will help me accomplish my goals, too," Buckner said. "Especially having guys like (Sherman) on the back end to help the young guys develop as players and some of the additions on the edge that we signed with Jeremiah. When the guys upfront will be able to do their job, the guys up back will be able to eat, and when the guys in the back do their job, the guys up front will be able to eat."
Buckner is undoubtedly the centerpiece of the 49ers budding defense. Primed for a breakout season, Buckner has set his own expectations for himself. He knows exactly what sack total he's shooting for, he's just not going to tell you about it.
"There's a number (of sacks), but I'm not going to tell you guys that number," Buckner laughed.