When Pro Football Focus released its list of the top 101 players for 2018, 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner was noticeably absent. He did, however, make another list: Top 10 players to miss the PFF top 101.
Buckner has improved each season and posted personal bests in several categories in 2018. He had career highs in total pressures (53), defensive stops (37) and quarterback sacks (12).
While Buckner has steadily become a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line, he did have one category that held him back from cracking the top 101: missed tackles. Of Buckner’s six missed tackles, five were against the run, which was ranked him tied for fourth-most at his position.
Despite the missed tackles, Buckner was impressive. Only the Rams' Aaron Donald (20.5) and the Chiefs' Chris Jones (15.5) had more sacks. Only five players had more quarterback pressures than Buckner’s total (53). He also ranked 14th in quarterback hits (9) and 12th in hurries (31).
When you take a look at the interior defensive linemen that did make the PFF 101, you'll notice that the players at the top of the list are on teams that also another standout defensive lineman playing alongside them.
Donald has Ndamukong Suh, Eagles' Fletcher Cox has Brandon Graham, Akiem Hicks (Bears) has Khalil Mack and Jones (Chiefs) has Dee Ford and Justin Houston. If the 49ers can add a much needed edge rusher in the offseason, Buckner could become a similarly ranked player.
Here are the interior defensive linemen in the PFF 101:
1. Aaron Donald -- Rams
5. Fletcher Cox -- Eagles
11. Akiem Hicks -- Bears
15. Chris Jones -- Chiefs
17. Grady Jarrett -- Falcons
43. Kenny Clark -- Packers
57. Cameron Hayward -- Steelers
61. Jurrell Casey -- Titans
79. Geno Atkins -- Bengals
83. Lawrence Guy -- Patriots
88. Eddie Goldman -- Bears
95. Ndamukong Suh -- Rams
Buckner is entering his fourth season as a Niner and is eligible for a contract extension. His four-year rookie contract ends at the end of the 2019 season but does contain a fifth-year option. The 49ers have plenty of cap space available, which could be used to work a long term deal with the University of Oregon alum.
"We're going to do everything we can to ensure that DeFo is a Niner for a long, long time," Lynch said on KNBR in December. "I'm sure it won't be cheap, but those are all things you have to figure out. I can tell you that the motivation in this building is to keep him around here for a long, long time."
The 49ers hope to use free agency and/or the draft to get Buckner the help he needs to flourish -- perhaps by this time next year, he'll be a mainstay on the PFF list.
Buckner’s 49ers teammate George Kittle made the PFF top 101 list for the first time, slotting in at No. 13. Veteran tackle Joe Staley was ranked No. 96, making his sixth appearance on the list.