Cardinals trade down, take hard-hitting safety Bucannon
MAY 08, 2014 11:15p ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's hard work replacing an icon, but Cardinals first-round pick Deone Bucannon didn't shy away from the comparisons after general manager Steve Keim noted some similarities between his new strong safety and the one who roamed the field for 12 memorable seasons in Arizona: Adrian Wilson.
"That's one of the guys that you emulate," said Bucannon, whom the Cardinals picked at No. 27 Thursday after trading down in the first round. "That's what my blueprint is going to be based off of is Adrian Wilson -- somebody of that caliber and nothing less."
Bucannon led the Pac-12 in tackles (114) and tied for the conference lead in interceptions (six) last season at Washington State, where he recorded 15 career picks. He also has length at 6-foot-1 and ran a 4.48 40 at the NFL Scouting Combine, so there is ample belief that he can help the Cardinals shore up a season-long weakness in covering tight ends.
"He's got the length and the speed, so he can match up on slot receivers and tight ends," coach Bruce Arians said. "He's an excellent blitzer and tackler."
But Keim said his calling cards are his passion and his penchant for big hits, a skill that would make Wilson smile. Bucannon is the fourth-leading tackler in Washington State history (384), with a whopping 89 of those tackles coming in the red zone, including 30 stops on goal-line stands and 44 touchdown-saving tackles.
"We'll give him opportunities to knock the crap out of people," Arians said.
The Cardinals' approach with first-round picks is to expect them to start immediately, so Bucannon will have a chance to pair with Tyrann Mathieu and cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie to form a formidable secondary.
Keim said last week that he wanted to acquire more picks in this year's draft, but it was a mild surprise when he traded the team's first-round selection (No. 20) to the Saints for New Orleans' first- (No. 27) and third-round (No. 91) picks.
In explanation, Keim said there were a handful of players the Cardinals still thought they'd be able to get at that spot, although there were some surprises. The fact that they got a strong safety made it all the more satisfying.
With last year's starter, Yeremiah Bell, highly unlikely to be re-signed and Mathieu still rehabbing from LCL and ACL injuries suffered Dec. 8 against the Rams, the Cards could start the season without both 2013 starters, although Rashad Johnson remains and Tony Jefferson got some valuable playing time late last season.
"Not only do we feel like we filled a specific need, we filled it with a guy we've targeted for quite some time," Keim said.
Bucannon was graded by many as a second-round pick, but both Keim and Bucannon felt he had been overlooked because he played out of the spotlight in Pullman.
"He wasn’t at one of the top 15 schools in the country, so he didn't probably get some of the recognition that he deserved," Keim said. "But you look at his resume and you look at his stats and his height, 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. He's a guy we felt was flying a little bit under the radar."
There will no doubt be criticism because the Cardinals received less in their first-round trade than Philadelphia did two picks later. The Eagles moved down four spots, swapping first-round picks with Cleveland, which took Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel. Like the Cardinals, the Eagles also received a third-round pick, but it's the 83rd pick, eight spots higher than the Cardinals. But that may have had more to do with the Browns' desire to move in front of Kansas City, which may have wanted Manziel.
The Cards passed on drafting two quarterbacks some had headed to Arizona in mock drafts. Both Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater and Fresno State's Derek Carr were still on the board at No. 27. They also opted against Manziel, who was still available when their pick first came up at No. 20.
On the other side of the ball, more highly touted Alabama safety Ha Ha Cinton-Dix was available before the Cardinals traded down, but Keim felt Bucannon's "size, speed and physicality" were a better fit in Arizona.
The Cardinals might not be done acquiring picks, but as it stands right now, they have three more -- No. 52, No. 84 and No. 91 -- in the first three rounds of what is considered a very deep draft. They have six more picks overall, holding a single selection in each of the fourth (No. 120), fifth (No. 160) and sixth rounds (No. 196).
Among the areas they are expected to address are offensive tackle, outside linebacker/defensive end and quarterback.