Many will say that Steve Keim and company reached for a need in the first round of the NFL Draft. I am here to tell you they did not.
While Deone Bucannon was not my top-rated safety, and ended up being the third safety taken in the NFL Draft, he fills a huge need for what the Cardinals were looking for — an intimidating, rugged, box safety, which also has coverage ability upside.
If that is what the Cardinals “needed” or “reached” for, then they did a great job, because they would have taken him at 20, but were able to acquire another third-round pick from New Orleans.
For what it is worth, I felt like the Cardinals settled a little for 91. That was confirmed when the Philadelphia Eagles moved back only four spots and ended up with a higher third-round pick in return.
What can Cardinals fans look for in their new safety?
Meet Deone Bucannon of Washington State.
• Well put together long, strong safety prospect with elite size/speed combination and measurements.
• A physically intimidating safety prospect with the ability to own the middle of the field because of his presence.
• Familiarity playing in the slot against tight ends and receivers, even if he is not the most fluid guy in coverage.
• Diagnoses and attacks better than any other safety in this draft, with quick recognition and reaction skills in both the run and pass game.
• Excellent ball skills while in coverage, makes quick, clean breaks on the ball, and is outstanding working in man coverage coming back and getting the ball because of an excellent burst in and out of his backpedal.
• Uses his hands well in coverage and when coming up and taking on blockers against the run.
• Was the only real threat on the Washington State defense, and still made numerous impactful plays in every game. Is a leader and will be able to come in and contribute immediately because of his versatility against the run and the pass.
• Over-aggressive in pursuit and coverage is putting it politely. Gets himself out of position too often trying to make big plays. (Although this could be because he felt he needed to at Washington State as the only playmaker on defense, and he may take a more cautious approach on this Cardinals defense.)
• Zone skills are more advanced than his man skills, but he plays best in shallow zones where he’s asked to keep man in front and can attack the ball down hill.
• Gets caught peeking into the backfield at the quarterback too often, and is prone to giving up big plays.
• Will have a direct line early in his career to the Commissioner’s office because of his “head hunting” tendencies.
Reminiscent of former Cardinal Adrian Wilson, Bucannon is a physically intimidating, zone coverage-type that can play enforcer in the back end. He lacks the turn and run ability of today’s cover safeties and won’t lock up wide receivers or tight ends in man coverage.
Bucannon can line up in the box and play as an extra linebacker, making him an asset in run defense.
He has excellent tackling ability, closes coming downhill and tracks the ball carrier well.
He won’t do much in man coverage outside of being a big body that can get in the way right now, but if dropped into a zone, with his ability to track and make plays on the ball, Bucannon has day-one starter written all over him.
The question for Bucannon becomes can he make the jump in coverage abilities?
His floor looks to be similar to recently departed (retired?) Yeremiah Bell, but his ceiling, if he learns to cover consistently, is Adrian Wilson.
Add to that to the fact the Cardinals were able to get an extra third-round pick while getting the guy they wanted at 20, and you have to like what Steve Keim did Thursday even if he will be judged by some on how Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Darqueze Dennard turn out.