Two of the three mock drafts Chris focused on this week have the New York Giants selecting Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner with the 10th overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. Four of the 16 mocks currently listed in our mock draft database also have the Giants selecting Buckner.
The central question about Buckner has nothing to do with whether or not the long-armed, 6-foot-7, 290-pound behemoth deserves to be selected in the top half of the opening round. Most analysts agree that is a given. Buckner, though, has played in a 3-4 at Oregon, has a long-legged body type that suggests that would be the best defense, and most scouting reports suggest the 3-4 as his best fit.
So, why do those who do mock draft continue to give Bucker to the Giants? Their base defense is a 4-3, and since they are keeping Steve Spagnuolo as their defensive coordinator we know that is not changing. The big question is can Buckner thrive as a 4-3 defensive end if that is the position he is asked to play in the NFL?
Here is a portion of the NFL.com scouting report on Buckner, which compares him to Calais Campbell of the Arizona Cardinals and Arik Armstead of the San Francisco 49ers.
Buckner has the body type of a classic 3-4 defensive end who can control the point of attack with length and power, but he has above average pass rush potential for that position which figures to push him into the early stages of round one. Buckner has similar power to former teammate Arik Armstead, but is a much better pass rusher and has a chance to become a dominant force in the NFL.
I reached out to several NFL talent evaluators and asked each if Buckner could "thrive" as a 4-3 defensive end. Most believe Buckner can be a good two-way defensive end (run/pass) but isn't likely to be an elite double-digit sack type pass rusher in a 4-3.
The only talent evaluator I contacted who believes a 4-3 team should stay away from Buckner is Greg Gabriel of the National Football Post. Gabriel is a former NFL scout who worked several years for the Giants.
"He's not a 4-3 end. He's a 3-4 end or maybe a huge 3-tech in a 4-3. Don't look at mocks, 90 percent of the people who do them don't have a clue about scouting and traits required to play in certain schemes," Gabriel said.
Other evaluators disagreed.
Here is Scott Wright of Draft Countdown:
"I think Buckner is definitely capable of playing defensive end in an even front. Thrive? Like double-digit sacks? Probably not," Wright said. "He'd be one of the best two-way ends in the league, though. Think Cam Jordan. Not sure the Giants will have to worry about it though because he's unlikely to make it to No. 10."
Wright, in fact, has Buckner going No. 5 to the Jacksonville Jaguars in his latest mock draft.
"I think Buckner would be good as a 4-3 end. Play end on run downs, move inside in passing situations. He's versatile," said Charlie Campbell of Walter Football. "He can rush off the edge as well. He's a Calais Campbell type."
Dane Brugler of CBS Sports agreed that Buckner has the ability to succeed in a 4-3.
"Buckner played mostly defensive end in Oregon's 3-4 base, but he fits any defensive scheme with versatility inside and outside. He's not a traditional pass rusher who will scream off the edge, but developed into a better pass rusher as a senior," Brugler wrote via e-mail. "He plays with explosive movements and terrific body control for his size, flashing heavy hands and initial power, although he's still learning how to use his hands and string together rush moves. He is better suited for a 3-4 scheme where he can control blocks with his length, but he will make an impact in a 4-3 as well, lining up both inside and outside."
Brugler's CBS cohort Rob Rang believes 3-4 defensive end is ultimately Buckner's best position.
"I believe that Buckner could play this role but that he projects best as a traditional 3-4 defensive end. With today's hybrid fronts, though, teams are increasingly just looking for good football players and building around them rather than forcing players to fit schemes," Rang wrote via e-mail.
Thoughts, Giants fans? If the Giants were to draft Buckner would you be worried about his fit in a system using 4-3 as its base defense?