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@CoachKWils miss you to coach!Thanks for everything.
— Deone Bucannon (@deonebucannon20) January 17, 2014
Deone Bucannon certainly looks the part. Measuring a hair under 6’1” and weighing 216 pounds at the Senior Bowl, he already possesses the frame necessary to hold up and thrive at the position. This size will help him when he’s asked to play up in the box.
The Cougar has good speed and acceleration at the strong safety position. Bucannon has the bulk of a thumper and the range of a free safety. Although he’s not overly tall, a 78-inch wingspan allows Bucannon to contend with receivers who have a height advantage. He is a long-legged safety, which is almost always accompanied by some lack of short area agility.
He’s not going to change directions with DeSean Jackson, obviously, but he is a fluid who gets moving quickly, both in coverage and pursuit.
I will give Bucannon this: he comes with bad intentions every time he makes contact. He’s a physical presence on the back end of a defense. He punishes opponents when he lines them up in his sights, patrolling the middle of the field like a bodyguard for the line to gain.
However, to say that he is a good tackler wouldn’t be very accurate. Bucannon’s tackle numbers are great, but he could have secured many more. This may be his biggest weakness as a prospect.
In his efforts to always hit a runner out of the ballpark, he throws his shoulder and lunges at ball carriers. He tends to tackle with a high-pad level, which will also get him in trouble in the NFL. He rarely keeps his base underneath him when attempting to tackle. When he does lower his pad level, he often leaves his feet and ends up in a similar conundrum.
His lack of technique wasn’t exposed nearly as often in college as it will be in the NFL. Ball carriers in the League will run through many of the kill shots DBs put on Pac-12 runners.
This is not to say that an NFL coaching staff can’t reteach Bucannon how to tackle. They most certainly can because this is not a physical, “business decision” problem. No. 20 brings all the physicality needed.
The NFL’s new emphasis on player safety may also get Bucannon in trouble. He has been suspended for hits in the past, while also being flagged for unnecessary roughness numerous times. This recklessness will bring fines, suspensions and first downs if Bucannon can’t control his strike zone.
The California-native has no gripes about attacking the football downhill, filling gaps in the run game and putting a licking on the ball carrier. He shows aggression and speed in pursuit but has taken some questionable angles to the ball carrier, although these instances are spread out.
The senior can also play in the box with the instincts to get to plays inside the tackle box and the speed to chase down plays to the outside. He attacks blockers but must do a better job of scraping and shedding blocks rather than just hitting them. That being said, he needs to finish the job when he gets to the runner. He must improve his tackling, so he can be trusted as a team’s last line of defense against the run.
Bucannon is at his best facing the quarterback and breaking on the football. When he can sit in the back end and read the quarterback, he shows great abilities in coverage—though he has been caught peeking in the backfield. His athleticism allows him to get to most spots on the field, and this range, coupled with good instincts, allow him to roam the back half.
Washington State asked him to play as the single-high safety often, and he is an apt centerfielder. A team could trust him in a Cover 2 shell, possibly even a Cover 1, right now. He closes in a flash and looks to make a play on the ball or blow the receiver up.
Bucannon has struggled some when he’s not facing the football. He was beat a few times during the Senior Bowl practices in red-zone one-on-one drills. He failed to get his head around to locate the football and gave up the catch over the top because of it. However, he did make a few plays in college retreating towards the opponent’s end zone.
He has experience in the slot and displayed adequate mirror skills and an ability to turn and run with receivers. He even demonstrated that he uses his hands and strength well at the line of scrimmage during Senior Bowl practices.
Despite this, many NFL receivers and elite tight ends will give him some of the same problems they give other safeties, especially early on. His long-legs will be a detriment to him defending slots.
Although he may not be reliable in run defense, he can stand up in coverage as a defense’s last line.
When the Washington State product gets to the football, he doesn’t leave without it. He shows good body control and natural hands to keep the ball when he touches it.
Bucannon has the ability to turn the ball over, and this is a valuable asset in an NFL that sees offenses move up and down the field at will. His interception production increased every year in college—a product of increased awareness.
Bucannon has experience on each special team’s unit, and his athleticism will also bring value to a team’s special team’s unit. He’s a moving block of C-4 on coverage units, and he brings the want-to to be a nice block on return teams.
When the lights come on, Deone Bucannon comes to play. He rises to the level of competition and seems out to prove he’s the best player on the field. He brings the type of attitude teams’ covet on the backend.
Bucannon seems to have a nose for the football. Some players just smell the pigskin like a dog searching for boars. Deone Bucannon is one of those players. He finds the football, gets moving and hunts.
Bucannon should be hearing his name called early on Day Two of the Draft as long as he runs well at the Combine. Regardless, tape doesn’t lie, and Bucannon has game. I believe that he will develop into a player who teams will regret passing on in the draft.