To have a knock that he’s more of the strong safety type and not the best in coverage, Washington State’s Deone Bucannon sure did rack up the interceptions in college. Considered the third- or fourth-best safety prospect in this year’s draft, the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Bucannon had 15 career interceptions and also has a reputation as an enforcer among the defensive backs. While his developmental curve is steeper than some of the safeties projected ahead of him, Bucannon is a solid safety prospect with college production to back up his third-round draft status.
Bucannon stepped into the starting lineup at WSU as a freshman, starting in eight games and continued that throughout his college career, culminating with First-Team All-American honors as a senior. In addition to his Pac-12-leading 114 tackles, Bucannon notched 4.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles in 2013 and ever since the season ended, he’s done a lot to help his draft stock.
At the NFL Combine, Bucannon was a top performer in nearly every category and scouts were especially pleased to see his 4.49 40 time since many question his true playing speed. The speed is there and the athleticism is as well to go along with solid size and at the Senior Bowl earlier this year, Bucannon answered some questions about his ability cover.
In his career, Bucannon was typically asked to man the strong safety role, helping establish a physical tone on defense and while he made plays with the ball in the air, it was mostly due to his athleticism than elite instincts. He’s a strong run defender that can read it quickly and get to the ball carrier and the three-time team captain also is an experienced special teams player. Bucannon’s overly aggressive play can at times take him out of plays or lead to missed tackles, but that’s often the nature of such a playing style.
While he has spent the offseason showing the NFL that he’s got the necessary cover skills to be a truly versatile safety, there is still game film of Bucannon’s limitations. Much of Bucannon’s knocks are technical and could be corrected with coaching in the NFL and while his instincts are raw as well, he still manages to find himself around the ball frequently.
Bucannon may not be a starter from the first day of camp, but he has the ability to improve his coverage and will step in as a physical defender early on. If a team can live with some of his early mistakes, Bucannon is a solid get in the middle rounds of the draft and comes with starter-caliber talent and plenty of upside.