Peter Schrager of "Good Morning Football" is really high on San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. So much so that he threw Buckner's name into the hat as a potential Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

Buckner racked up a career-high 12 sacks last season. He was the only 49ers player to register six-or-more sacks in 2018. Two players in San Francisco, Ronald Blair and Cassius Marsh, ranked second on the team with 5.5 sacks each. The former remains with the team while the latter is now with the division-rival Seattle Seahawks.

The 49ers bolstered their pass rush this offseason by trading for Dee Ford and drafting Nick Bosa. The hope is that the new bookends along the defensive front will open things up for Buckner, who could be gearing up for another career season.

Just how good can Buckner be in his fourth NFL season?

"DeFo is one of these guys that, in that building, they rave about," Schrager said on Tuesday morning. "And the pieces that they added around Buckner is incredible. When you have Buckner, who had 12 sacks on a bad 49ers defense last year, and you add a Nick Bosa on one end, you add a Dee Ford, you add a Kwon Alexander, DeForest Buckner quietly is emerging and one of the ascending players.

"(He's) also in a contract situation. Look for DeForest Buckner to maybe hit 20 sacks in that Robert Saleh defense. Don't sleep on this Niners (defensive line). They're all first-round picks. Everywhere you turn is a first-round pick for the 49ers. DeForest Buckner is the best one out of all of them. I think he could be a Defensive Player of the Year."


Eleven players have recorded 20-or-more single-season sacks since 1982. The latest was Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who had 20.5 in 2018. Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt accomplished the feat twice (20.5 in both 2012 and 2014).

The 49ers executed Buckner's fifth-year option in April, guaranteeing that the Pro Bowl defensive tackle remains with the team through the 2020 season. They would, however, prefer to lock him up to a multi-year deal.

"He's very important to us, and he's another guy who's a big part of what we're doing," general manager John Lynch said of Buckner in April. "I just love everything about him, and the way he goes about his business. I think he's a special player, and we'd like to keep him here for a long time."

Buckner is leaving his future in the hands of the 49ers and his agent. Right now, he continues to focus on being among the best defensive players in the league and his "I can't be blocked" mentality.

"I told [Dee Ford], 'I can't be blocked,'" Buckner said in June. "I approach that every day. That's my mindset going in every day for practice, and that's how I approach every game. I want to be the best at my position."