DeForest Buckner is looking to make the leap in his second NFL season following a dynamic collegiate career at Oregon.
The pass rusher exploded onto the scene during his senior year in 2015, racking up a career-high 10.5 sacks. Buckner was then selected seventh overall by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2016 NFL Draft, one year after the Niners drafted former Oregon defensive standout Arik Armstead at No. 15.
Buckner compiled a solid rookie campaign in the Bay Area, which included six quarterback takedowns. He has been working out in Hawaii this offseason with division rival Michael Bennett, and needless to say, the Seahawks star defensive lineman has generated some lofty expectations for his younger counterpart.
“I think DeForest, I’m lucky to be working with a guy like that,” Bennett told KHON-TV in Hawaii. “I think DeForest will eventually be a Defensive Player of the Year. I think he has the talent to be able to do that. I keep telling him there’s nobody like him. He’s not normal. His physique, his speed, it’s not normal so when you’re not normal you can do not normal things and winning the defensive MVP is not normal for most people.”
The 6-foot-7, 300-pound physical specimen hopes to take the next step despite the Niners revamping their defensive coaching staff and scheme (3-4 to 4-3). Buckner’s otherworldly athleticism should make for a seamless transition, though.
If his physical gifts weren’t enough of an advantage already, Buckner is using Bennett’s praise as motivation going forward.
“That’s what gives me a lot of confidence having a guy like him saying that I could be a potential MVP of the league one year, that means a lot,” he said. “It makes me want to grind harder.”