I'm taking a look at selected players leading up to the NFL draft, which begins May 8. The reports are based on watching multiple games on draftbreakdown.com; I'll let you know when there is an opinion other than my own. I'm not a fan of having to only watch them off a TV feed -- you don't always get the best angle, or see all the players -- but it's the best I can do now and it helps provide a snapshot. The draft analysts -- especially those from ESPN.com, NFL.com and CBSSports.com -- help fill in the gap, especially in terms of where they are projected.
Player: Deone Bucannon
School: Washington State
College production: Led the Pac-12 in tackles and interceptions this past season. All-American this past season after intercepting six passes (he had 15 for his career). Four-year starter; never missed a game. Also was a three-time captain.
How he’d fit: He’d be one of the top four safeties and a player to be groomed for a starting job by 2015. The question is, if he’s better at being an in-the-box safety and if Phillip Thomas is healthy, then you have two young players with similar skills. But Bucannon is impressive and also would help on special teams immediately.
What I liked: He competes and he plays physical. Late in blowouts, you can’t tell the score by the way he plays. He also played a lot of special teams -- both punt and kick coverage. You get the sense that he just likes being on the field. The Redskins could use more of that toughness in the secondary (the starting safeties have that, but they need more). He had some crunching hits in the four games I watched, notably against USC on a running back along the sidelines. He tries to drive through the ballcarrier, too. Bucannon is aggressive taking on lead blockers, be it a pulling guard or a fullback. He comes up aggressive and typically met them behind the line of scrimmage. Bucannon typically shows up at the end of a run, something I love because it speaks to effort and passion. Saw him make one tackle in which he was in the middle of the field near the line of scrimmage when the quarterback, who looked like he was going to run, stopped and threw near the numbers to his left. Bucannon, about 20 yards away, hustled to the ball and helped make a stop after a very short gain. He played all over, not just in the box, but he definitely looks more comfortable closer to the line. However, it’s certainly not out of the question that he can play deeper, though it would require a little more discipline and patience on his part. Bucannon did cover one-on-one at times and did line up in the deep middle and deep half. He will sprint hard to the ball from the deep middle. Bucannon has good speed (4.49 in the 40 at the combine). Saw him drive hard on the ball from the deep half in a couple games, once for an interception and another for a breakup, thanks in part to good reads. Made a nice pick against Stanford in the end zone from the outside half when the corner was suckered. Bucannon had started toward another receiver, then had to turn and sprint to the open target in the end zone. The ball was underthrown, but Bucannon made a nice play and saved his corner’s fanny. Love his name (DAY own). Like his background, too.
What I didn’t: Really, there’s not a lot to dislike about Bucannon. However, there were some missed tackles, more often because he’d come up hard and a little shake would be enough to get past him. It wasn’t egregious. He seemed to get overaggressive at times in the secondary, jumping on a route, and it’s easy to see double moves being an issue at least initially. It is for many players, but teams would try to use his aggressiveness -- and his eye discipline -- against him. Bucannon seemed to do better when he could drive on a ball rather than turn and cover on a crossing pattern or out pattern. It’s not about speed. I think he can improve here and his speed should allow for good range.
Projection: Second round. For the most part he’s considered the fourth-best safety in the draft and one of two who could go in the second round (along with Jimmie Ward). They have different strengths. Bucannon could be a tone-setter for a secondary. He comes from a military family. At 6-foot-1, 211 pounds he has a solid build. Bucannon could help right away, whether as a starter or in a reserve role and most certainly on special teams.
Other players examined: