TEMPE, Ariz. — You could have looked at mock draft after mock draft and struggled to find the player the Arizona Cardinals ended up taking.
Sure, they did trade down from 20 to 27, which changed things. But even still, some of the players pundits thought they coveted were on the board when the team traded down.
The “big” names like Darqueze Dennard, Johnny Manziel, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Dee Ford were there, as was popular pick for the Cardinals Derek Carr. The Cardinals passed on the chance to select them all, instead targeting a player who hadn’t been predicted to land in Arizona in Washington State safety Deone Bucannon.
“A lot of guys got a lot of hype in this draft, and what I think the extra time, sometimes people forget about the player and they start pairing players with teams and pushing, pushing, pushing and then it doesn’t happen,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “I felt terrible in the fact that Derek Carr has been attached with us by some people and there he is sitting on television, on television, on television when we’re on the clock and that wasn’t going to happen.
“Big name players don’t necessarily mean what we’re looking for.”
“You never know how the top 19 picks are going to go, and there certainly were some surprises for us and there were some players that we really liked that went ahead of us, but at the same time we valued where Deone sat on our board and we knew that he could come in and immediately be an instant contributor,” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said when asked if Bucannon was more of a fallback option after seeing other players come off the board before them.
In a way, though, the team’s desire to not only move down but then do so and pick Bucannon seems to go against the entire idea of mock drafts or projecting who a team, especially one picking so late in the round, is after.
What’s funny is the Cardinals knew Bucannon was their guy a few months back.
“Probably at the Combine this spring,” Keim said of when they knew. “He was at Washington State so he wasn’t at one of the top 15 schools in the country, so he probably didn’t get the recognition that he deserved. But you look at resume and you look at his stats vs. his height and weight and speed versus any other safety in this draft, and we wondered all along why he wasn’t talked about with some of those other top players.”
A pre-draft dinner at Fleming’s helped seal the deal.
“You sit down with a guy and you have an opportunity to have dinner, and you look him in the yes and you see what they’re made of,” Keim said. “Some guys within a couple minutes turn you off and you realize that this guy is not for us. He was one of those guys who came in, and it was really beneficial to have him visit because the extra time you spend with him, just as we did with Tyrann (Mathieu) last year, convinces you that what you saw on tape is also what you see in person.”
But there was a seeming lack of exposure with regards to Bucannon, much of which could likely be attributed to him playing in Pullman. Still, there was not much fanfare for a first-team All-American and first-team All-Pac-12 player who was a semi-finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top defensive back.
If pre-draft buzz means anything, it appears the Cardinals landed someone who is a bit on the underrated side.
For his part, Bucannon believes that’s the case.
“I feel very overlooked, you know, in my opinion, but I can only control what I can control,” Bucannon said. “I thank God each and every day for the opportunities that he has blessed me with and I’m going to take advantage as much as possible. I don’t want to let the Arizona fans or my coaching staff, I’m not going to let them down.”