The Indianapolis Colts had a decision to make this offseason: Trade the No. 13 overall pick for DeForest Buckner and hand him a new big deal or stand pat and potentially select a young D-lineman who might be cheaper but is an unknown quantity in the NFL.
Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus told the team's official website that the decision was pretty easy once he dug into Buckner's tape.
"When Chris (Ballard) and Frank (Reich) came to me first about DeForest, and they said, 'Hey, we have a chance to get this young man here,'" he said, "I went back and looked at a few games, in terms of the playoff games and all that, and my initial reaction was exactly what I thought when I watched him in some crossover games, is, 'This guy is an impact player, and he plays at a high level and he certainly affects the football in positive way up front.' My answer was, 'Yes. Go get this guy.'
"The question was posed to me, 'Hey, if we get X player at 13, or this player at 13, or we could acquire DeForest...' we did some thinking on that, and the thought process was, 'Hey, we got a known player here that we've seen play in the NFL that's young, that's played a lot of snaps, has done a great job in terms of impacting football games. If we can get him, let's go get him.'
"As soon as we signed him, a couple of my buddies in the league got a hold of me and said, 'You're gonna love him on gameday, but during practice you're gonna love him even more.' The way he practices raises everybody's level, and his leadership is just that; people lead by example and lead by doing, and he certainly does that in practice. I'm excited to get him on the practice field to watch him work, and to work with him."
Buckner is a dominating talent in the middle, compiling 28.5 sacks in four seasons in San Francisco, and added 2.5 more during a huge playoff run last year. The 26-year-old defensive lineman stands 6-foot-7 with a massive wingspan and can crumble the pocket and push guards and centers into the quarterback's lap.
San Francisco didn't necessarily want to trade Buckner but did so due to future financial considerations. The Niners have a lot of mouths to feed on their D-line. With the No. 13 pick, the 49ers selected rookie Javon Kinlaw. San Francisco is banking on Kinlaw growing to be the player Buckner already is.
The Colts had the cap space to sign Buckner to a colossal long-term deal to fill a big void. Playing in front of star linebacker Darius Leonard, the addition gives Indy a dynamite middle of the defense that will give offenses trouble for years to come.