Thirty-two names slipped off the tongue of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at Thursday night’s NFL Draft, but Dan Buckner’s was not one of them.
That’s weird for Buckner, the former Arizona receiver.
He came out of Allen High School in Texas a five-star recruit, and was understandably a hot commodity. Buckner received scholarship offers from Baylor, Nebraska, Texas, Notre Dame and Oklahoma, among others.
Buckner wound up a Texas Longhorn for the first two years of his college career, but some off-the-field concerns led to his transfer to the UA in 2010.
Now Buckner is fighting for the right to even be on an NFL roster, and his skeptics are out in force.
They say he’s hurt too much.
In his four-year college career (40 games), Buckner caught 153 balls for 1,905 yards and 13 touchdowns. Solid numbers, sure, but not exactly what’s expected of a former five-star recruit.
“I didn’t have the ideal career,” Buckner said. “It’s not ideal. I’m not happy about it, but at the same time it’s a totally new stage. When you step on the field, whether it be as a draftee or as a free agent, I’m in the same place as everyone else: We’re all fighting for a job.”
Buckner left the UT program shortly after he was arrested on charges of criminal trespassing and resisting arrest in early 2010, and his Arizona career didn’t exactly go the way he expected it to either.
The man who recruited him to transfer to the UA — former UA head coach Mike Stoops — was fired at midseason.
“When I lost him [Stoops], I was in Mississippi burying my grandmother,” Buckner said. “Next thing I know, I come back and my coach was gone.”
Although he lost Stoops, Buckner said he was “thankful” for his replacement, Rich Rodriguez, and the way Rodriguez utilized him in 2012. Buckner had 61 receptions for 773 yards and five touchdowns.
Now, most draft prognosticators have Buckner going undrafted and catching on as a free agent, but the skillset and talent that made him a five-star recruit haven’t completely fallen by the wayside.
At 6-foot-4, he’s tall, but he’s not the only one who thinks that shouldn’t pigeonhole him as a possession-type wideout.
“When Dan was healthy,” Rodriguez said, “he could run by people. He’s a big body with tremendous ball movement. He’s also a very intelligent player from understanding coverages.”
Reports surfaced that Buckner ran a 4.47 second 40-yard dash in a recent workout, which comes as a bit of a surprise.
By comparison, the similarly sized Juron Criner, a former Wildcat, ran a 4.59 40-yard dash at last year’s NFL Combine.
“You never got to see the full effect of Dan, full stride, straight-on running,” said former UA fullback Taimi Tutogi. “With the routes he runs, he runs a post or a dig; you don’t get to see, I guess, somebody full speed straight ahead. But he’s a fast dude for how big he is. I don’t doubt that he ran a 4.4 [40-yard dash].”
Now Buckner is out to prove he belongs on an NFL roster.
And the climb to that point is much steeper than he thought it would be five years ago.
“One thing I felt like I did learn through all of it,” Buckner said, “is that I’m still here. A lot of people would transfer and disappear and fall off. But I’m still here. I’ve been through a lot of things, and it’s not ideal, but I’m going to keep fighting. It’s a war. It’s a fight.”
They said it:
Here’s what some scouting reports said about Dan Buckner’s chances in the NFL:
“I think he’s a solid all-around player. I think he definitely makes a team. I don’t have him as a draftable prospect; I have him as a priority free agent right now. But I think you can definitely see him on the third day. Sixth and seventh round is always just teams getting their guys, and he’s one of those players that will stick around. You know what you’re getting with him. You know you’re getting someone that can run his routes pretty cleanly. It’s just about upside. You got to stay healthy and all those types of things and those questions push him down in a deep receiver class. I think he’s going to get to a camp. He’s going to have to be a little better than we’ve seen in college, but he’ll get a shot.”
— NFL Draft Countdown’s Shane P. Hallam, as told to the Daily Wildcat
NFL Comparison: Chaz Schilens
“Buckner possesses the size, strong hands and ability to win jump balls downfield as a outside vertical threat, but average straight-line speed, inconsistent play and off-field issues that caused him to transfer from Texas to UA might keep him a mid-round selection.”
— NFL.com scouting report.
“I’ve told the pro scouts when they’ve asked that he’s gonna be in somebody’s camp, and I think he’s gonna make somebody’s team.”
— Rich Rodriguez