Cardinals trade down, take hard-hitting safety Bucannon
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."
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.
School: Washington State
Hometown: Fairfield, Calif.
2013 stats: 114 tackles (Pac-12 leader), six interceptions (tied for Pac-12 lead), three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, 4.5 tackles for loss
Notable: First-team AP All-American as a senior; three-time All-Pac-12 selection; four-year starter with 43 total starts; had 15 career interceptions; ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
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.
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.
Follow Craig Morgan on Twitter