There are high expectations for Deforest Buckner heading into Year 3. The former first-round pick emerged as one of the league's most disruptive interior defenders in 2017.
Despite totaling nine sacks over his first two seasons, Buckner led all interior defenders with 19 quarterback hits in 2017.
NFL.com analyst Elliot Harrison assembled his "All-Under-25 Team", and Buckner's ceiling made him an obvious choice. Here's what Harrison had to say on Buckner:
"Buckner is part of a young 49ers nucleus that will make waves in the NFC West as early as 2018. Buckner has more than held his own, with 61 tackles last season as an interior lineman. The sack numbers should grow."
San Francisco is confident in their young talent to help boost the defense's pressure off the edge. Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh believes the team's pass rush will be productive this season even without an elite edge rusher on the roster.
"The difference between the top guy and the next guy is very little. We do think Buck is a dominant football player. We think Solomon (Thomas') has great upside. Arik (Armstead) still has tremendous upside, a ceiling that he hasn't even touched yet," Saleh said. "Then you look at all of the LEOs, between Eli (Harold), Dekoda (Watson), Pita Taumoepenu, Cassius (Marsh), (Jeremiah) Attaochu, even Ronald Blair (III) rushing on the inside. There's a lot of guys, I could name all of them. But, they're all fighting to show something so they can get opportunities to rush the passer this year.
"There's a lot of teams that have four really good rushers and they are very effective rushing the passer and that's what we're trying to build to be. Who knows, you might be surprised. There might be a star out of the bunch. I have a feeling there might be."
Harrison isn't the only member of the media to recognize the young d-lineman's potential. NFL.com analysts Shaun O'Hara projected a breakout season for Buckner, landing at No. 6 on his Top 10 Defensive Tackles for 2018 list. Buckner was also selected at No. 43 on the Pro Football Focus Top 50 Players and made an appearance at No. 95 of CBS Sports Pete Prisco's Top 100 NFL Players of 2018.
Buckner is an obvious name to keep your eye on in 2018. With the development of San Francisco's supporting cast, Buckner could be in line for a monster season in Year 3.