Those of you on the Revenge of the Birds community and that follow me on Twitter will understand just how much I love Washington State safety Deone Bucannon. If you had tracked my mock drafts on ROTB, you would've seen that I mocked Bucannon to the Cardinals, and this continues on in 'GM Mocks' on twitter. While some are sceptical about this pick, let me assure you, Deone Bucannon is the guy you want.
Firstly, Keim & Co swung a trade with the New Orleans Saints to trade down from 20 to 27th overall, picking up a third round pick (91st overall) in the process, which to me was a smart deal, seeing as they had their guy in Bucannon lined up with the 20th pick anyway. So having traded down, and still got their guy, that's an A+ move from me.
Onto Bucannon, the Washington State Cougar was one of the more impressive prospects at the NFL Scouting Combine, being a top performing defensive back in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, broad jump and three cone drill (per NFL.com).
He was never really touted as a first round pick, but was the consensus third safety according to many different media members covering the draft. To some this pick might be considered a reach (and I'm looking at you Walter Football and Michael Schottey of B/R), but this is not only good value, in fellow ROTB'er Shaun Church's and my eyes anyway, but fills a significant need.
The Cardinals struggled tremendously last season in getting adequate coverage from their strong safety, especially against the tight end. With no Yeremiah Bell, 2013 UDFA Tony Jefferson was slated to start at SS going into training camp, but Bucannon gives the team an instant upgrade at the position - a true difference maker. I will accpet the argument that you may feel a Ra'Shede Hageman or Teddy Bridgewater was a better value pick at 27 overall, but no one, and I mean no one will have as big an impact as Deone Bucannon will have.
Let's look at what he brings to the table. At 6'1", 211 lbs, Bucannon possesses Kam Chancellor-like frame, albeit slightly smaller (Chancellor was 6'3", 231 lbs coming out of Virginia Tech in 2010). He has excellent size and strength for the position, and like Chancellor, is an absolute missile from the secondary. He hits harder than Calvin Pryor and tackles better, tallying up 114 tackles and 6 interceptions during his final season with the Cougars - career highs.
Some question how effective Bucannon will be in coverage, but I don't think it's a major worry. While he still needs refining as a cover safety, his size gives him the edge in terms of disrupting routes which affects the timing of the opposing offense. His instincts are up there with the best of them, possessing some of the best play-recognition skills of any defensive back in this class, which is a major factor in his laudable tackle and interception numbers.
He has great closing speed and can maintain a close proximity between himself and the opposing receiver, which aids him as his size will give him the edge when playing the ball. 17 career interceptions with the Cougars, he has elite level ball skills to boot. Also being a team captain three straight years is something the Cardinals staff covets, a vocal leader in the locker room bodes well for the long term.
A lot has been made about Bucannon's 'stiff hips'. While he doesn't possess the fluidity of Justin Gilbert, these questions are overblown. He isn't the best at route-recognition in terms of the break of the receiver's route, but has the closing speed to recover. He has the raw talent, but needs to work on his overall technique and consistency in coverage.
In the NFC West, the most physical league in football, you need a hard-hitter in the secondary who can cover effectively, and that is what Bucannon is. We've been lacking a top-end box safety who can play the run well while competently covering the tight end and bigger slot receivers. We have seen the success the Seattle Seahawks have had with a big, physical secondary, which is why someone like Bucannon has seen his stock elevated on draft day, but he fills a major need, in my opinion the single biggest hole on the roster going into the draft.
Instant impact is what Keim and Arians desire, that's what they will get from Deone Bucannon. You may not know much about him as you read this, and you may not think is was the right pick, but trust me, a year from now, you will reflect on this pick and think, again, Steve Keim got it right.
Trade back grade: A+
Pick Grade: A
Overall Day 1 Grade: A+