TEMPE, Ariz. — When the Arizona Cardinals were on the clock at pick number 20, they had their choice from a pretty solid group of players.
Auburn defensive end Dee Ford was on the board, as were Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Instead of taking one of those players — or anyone else, for that matter — the Cards decided to trade down, swapping first-round picks with the New Orleans Saints while adding a 2014 third-round pick (91st overall).
And with the Saints’ pick, 27th overall, the Cardinals took safety Deone Bucannon from Washington State.
“As you can imagine we’re excited,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said of the pick. “Not only do we feel like we fill a specific need, we fill it with a player who we’ve targeted for quite some time.”
While you’ll never get the full truth when it comes to whom a team was really targeting, unless of course the team is picking first overall, it makes sense that the Cardinals went in this direction.
Speaking with the media last week, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians stressed the importance these days of having a safety that can help in run support and in the passing game against tight ends, and the team believes it got someone who do just that in the former Washington State Cougar.
Bucannon left Pullman second on the all-time list with 268 solo tackles, and he also picked off 15 passes, six of which came last season as a senior.
He comes with a reputation similar to that of a former Cardinals safety.
“I don’t want to mention in him in the same breath as Adrian Wilson, but there are some physical similarities and the same type of mentality we were looking for,” Keim said of the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Bucannon.
“That’s the level I want to be at, is what he did,” Bucannon said. “Adrian Wilson is a great strong safety, especially for the Cardinals, that played for a long time and went to a bunch of Pro Bowls.”
“A Hall of Fame caliber player, that’s just one of the guys that you emulate. I’m going to go in there and that’s what my blueprint is going to be based off of is Adrian Wilson. Someone of that caliber, nothing less.”
Keim said Bucannon will get a chance to compete for a starting role right away, and Bucannon said his competitive nature leads to him believing he’ll be on the field when the Cardinals open the season against the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football in Week 1.
“I don’t know what the coaching staff thinks or what position or what role they want me in, but me being a competitor, I want to start, I want to play,” he said. “That’s what I want to do, that’s me. But that’s what I can control.
“I don’t know what the coaching staff plans for me, but whatever it is I’m going to go full force and I’m going to earn my spot.”
Whenever his impact is felt, the Cardinals believe they landed a player who will be part of what is shaping up to be a young and dynamic defensive backfield along with Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. Those two are known more for their coverage ability and knack for coming up with the ball, whereas Bucannon’s reputation is that of a leader in the locker room and a big hitter on the field.
And the Cardinals are happy to have him.
“In our division you better like to hit, and that’s one of the things,” Arians said. “He brings passion, and that’s what we loved about him. He plays with a lot of passion and he’s going to be a great fit in our locker room. He’s a humble kid that just loves to play the game and wants to learn from the best.
“We’ve got some guys here to help him and teach him and give him opportunities to knock the crap out of people in our division.”