Rookie DE DeForest Buckner Already Leading 49ers Defense

The San Francisco 49ers have at least one feel-good story this season in rookie defensive end DeForest Buckner, who has emerged as one of the top first-year players in the NFL in 2016.

The San Francisco 49ers have to be feeling pretty good defensive end DeForest Buckner fell to them at No. 7 overall in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Through three weeks of his rookie season, Buckner is quickly emerging as one of the top-tier players among a developing Niners defense. And while the 1-2 49ers might not have a lot of bragging rights so far, Buckner’s ascension is one element about which the franchise can feel good.

Buckner has three solo tackles and 13 assists on the young season. But this doesn’t tell the whole story.

Likely slated for sub packages and specific assignments prior to the season, Buckner is now developing as an every-down player. He was in 81 percent of the team’s snaps against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3, per Joe Fann of 49ers.com.

That number is higher than what former 49ers DE Justin Smith used to play after 2012, per Chris Biderman of Niners Wire.

Buckner’s impact goes beyond just the snap count too. According to Pro Football Focus, Buckner is the highest-graded rookie defensive lineman through three weeks.

Buckner owns a 77.2 PFF grade, by the way.

Former University of Oregon teammate, and now fellow D-lineman Arik Armstead currently ranks 12th in the same category with an 81.1 mark.

San Francisco might not have a lot going for the team right now. And 2016 could shape up to be yet another disappointing season for the Niners.

But at least the 49ers have two promising bookends on their D-line, and one of them is quickly emerging as an NFL standout.

All statistics, records and accolades courtesy of ESPN.comPro-Football-Reference.com and Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.

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