The knee injury that Tyrann Mathieu suffered late last season put a rather clear onus on the Arizona Cardinals to pick a safety at the 2014 NFL draft. They did so with pick No. 27 overall, after trading back from the 20th spot, taking Washington State safety Deone Bucannon.
Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix came off the board earlier in Round 1, perhaps forcing the Cardinals' hand here -- Bucannon was considered a rather firm Round 2 prospect. The Cardinals do have the benefit of the extra third-round pick they scored from New Orleans in an earlier Round 1 trade, however, so a little reach may not bother the brass there.
Strengths: May rack up some flags in the NFL simply because of how heavy a hitter he is. Bucannon stands 6-foot-1 and just north of 210 pounds, and he brings the full force of that stature whenever he can from the safety spot. He ran a sub-4.5 40 at the combine, too, so there's more to his game than just the highlight-reel hits. Bucannon can get to the ball, sideline to sideline, and make the necessary plays from the safety spot. He finished 2013 with six interceptions, and it appeared that he improved as the season went along -- a good sign, no doubt, for the team that picks him.
Weaknesses: Bucannon makes more plays on the football than ex-Lion and current Dolphin Louis Delmas, but he plays with a similar mentality, in that his No. 1 goal appears to be to lay the boom. That's well and good when he does so, yet the approach can leave him out of position and whiffing on tackles. He's not great dropping, either, a trait that can be problematic for a deep safety, if he spends time there as opposed to in the box. Though his speed allows him to cover a lot of mistakes, faster receivers who run sharp routes will be able to get past him.
Grade: B. Not really a poor pick here, but an early one. Bucannon almost certainly would have been around into Friday, so the Cardinals may wonder down the road if they could have addressed another need here -- like the offensive line -- and then circled back on Bucannon in Round 2.