This series will examine all draft prospects that have official invites to Valley Ranch. Previous research has shown these players are the most likely to be drafted by the Cowboys. For more explanation, read the opening paragraphs here.
Name: DeForest Buckner
Position: Defensive End
Height: 6’ 7"
Weight: 291 LBs
Oregon’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player
Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year
Morris Trophy Winner (Pac-12 Most Outstanding Defensive Lineman voted by opposing players)
First Team All-American - USA Today
Second Team All-American - AP, FWAA
First Team Pac-12 All-Conference
Hendricks Award Finalist (Nation’s Best Defensive End)
Second Team Pac-12 All-Conference
Joe Schaffeld Trophy (Oregon’s top Defensive Lineman)
Casanova Award (Oregon First-Year Player of the Year)
pSparq Score: 114.2 Z-Score: 0.2 NFL Percentile: 58.7
pSparq is an approximation of the "Sparq Score" metric invented by NIKE (with the help of former USC and current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach, Pete Carroll), designed as a way to standardize athletic testing of High School athletes and interpret their athleticism with a sport specific formula. By standardizing a single metric composed of multiple athletic test results, it becomes possible to compare players to the athletic testing scores of players in past draft classes, and to provide context as to how a player will compare athletically to his peers at the NFL level. The Z-Score represents the number of standard deviations (sigma) above or below the mean at a particular position that player falls, 84% of players will have a Z-score of less than 1, 98% will have a Z-score of less than 2, and 99.87% will fall below a Z-Score of 3. There are currently a total of four players who are "3 Sigma Athletes" in the NFL, JJ Watt, Byron Jones, Evan Mathis, and Lane Johnson. For more on pSparq,(and the man behind the math Zach Whitman) check out 3sigmaathlete.com
Measurables vs others at his position:
Note: This spider graph provides a visual representation of a players’ measurable traits, and combine results. The filled in area of the chart, as well as the number in the light grey circle represents the percentile among the player’s peers by position. A score of 85 here represents that out of every 100 players at his position, the player has a better result in that test than 85 of those 100.
Games Studied: Michigan State, TCU, Stanford, Washington State
Buckner played defensive end in Oregon’s 3-4 defense, and played both on the outside and inside at defensive tackle when the Ducks played even fronts in sub-packages. In that role he wasn’t always asked to play as a penetrator and was often responsible for two-gapping at the line of scrimmage, but there were times, when he was able to showcase his abilities getting up the field. His best rushes happen when he plays as a 3-technique, and uses a club/arm over move to the outside of the offensive guard. When he uses that move he is able to work up the field, and flip his hips around the corner to close to the quarterback, finishing with a few sacks on this move in the games I studied. He is also effective as a power rusher coming up the middle of the blocker, whether off the edge or inside. He is so strong in his upper-body that he can use his powerful hands to move his man out in the direction he wants him to go, and can use this ability to create pressure on the passer. One thing I do notice that will need to improve is that when his first move doesn’t work, he "runs out of plan", and doesn’t have counters or second moves to throw to defeat blocks, and usually winds up tied up with his blocker in a stalemate.
As a two-gap player in Oregon’s defense Buckner regularly knocks his man back with a strong punch, controls the point of attack, sheds the blocker, and makes the tackle in the back field. The strength in his upper body and particularly in his hands allow him to take on blockers and reset the line of scrimmage in the backfield rather than giving ground. The one thing he can be vulnerable to is when he gets down blocked at an angle which can knock him off balance, and even off his feet at times.
Conclusion/Cowboys Projection: Because of the nature of the scheme he played in at Oregon, and the size profile that matches a typical 3-4 player, Buckner is an interesting evaluation and presents as much projection to imagine in the Cowboys’ scheme as any player among the 30 national visitors. He shows enough ability getting up the field to get an idea that he could be successful as either a left defensive end or under tackle in Rod Marinelli’s defense. He is intriguing because it’s impossible to know exactly what the highest upside of the range of outcomes could be. His cleanest projection is probably as an under tackle, where he’ll have a quickness advantage and can play with power at the point of attack.