Washington State’s defense gets little recognition for a program that is already largely overlooked. The team gets more attention for the offense and its head coach, Mike Leach, but they have a talented free safety in Deone Bucannon. Bucannon has been underappreciated in terms of the national scene, but he has been productive in terms of his ability to play in coverage and cause turnovers.
Going to the NFL, Bucannon immediately offers a benefit in coverage. He has shown not only that he has range but can make plays on the football and cause turnovers. His ability in run support is largely a work in progress as his attitude is right in attacking the run, but his tackling technique needs to be torn down and rebuilt. If he can improve upon that, Bucannon can become a complete safety and an impact player in the NFL, but might take a little while to get there, but should contribute as depth and on special teams. As a result, Bucannon projects as an early day three pick that could end up going on the back end of day two because of workouts and physical potential.
Vitals & Build
Bucannon is listed at 6’1” 215lbs and while the listed weight looks good, he does not really play to it. Bucannon has good speed, quickness and body control. He accelerates well and is able to react quickly. His strength is underutilized at best. Bucannon offers a good amount of physical ability but needs to do a better job of playing to it, especially when it comes to his overall strength, which is where his physical potential really lies.
Bucannon is a terrible tackler in terms of form and technique. He is almost always lunging or diving at the opponent. Bucannon throws shoulder bombs and does not consistent wrap up, which is a shame because he is physically capable. He just has a ton of bad habits that lead to inconsistent results.
Bucannon almost never keeps his feet under him and the few times he does, he is tackling far too high. He puts his head down too much and does not see what he is tackling, dives and misses too often. The best thing Bucannon does is push opponents out of bounds when he has the opportunity. As a result, he is unreliable on the back end as the last line of defense in that capacity.
This is an area where Bucannon struggles and it incredibly unfortunate. The Cougars are willing to send Bucannon and have him attack downhill quite a bit in an effort to stop the run. He has the speed and quickness to get to the hole and fill, but his bad tackling makes the results unpredictable and largely bad.
This makes it seem as though Bucannon’s tackling problems are a matter of bad habits that need to be unlearned and replaced with good ones. He is not afraid to get downhill and into the play, but then it becomes a disaster far too often. Bucannon is like a missile in that respect but needs to track down the ball carrier, break down and make a play from there with better technique. If he can fix those issues, he can be an effective support player.
Bucannon also needs to do a better job taking on and shedding blocks, but he does not run away or around them. He will go and be physical, but the results just need to improve.
As a run defender, the will is there but the technique is brutal. If he works on it and is coached to do it, it could be something that takes time, but could be an area where eventually can make a huge transformation, having him go from a black hole to a contributor.
The first aspect of Bucannon’s game that stands out is his range. He has the speed and quickness to cover a large amount of ground and get to a lot of plays. Bucannon is an extremely fluid athlete who can flip his hips, see where plays are going and has the burst to get there quickly. He also breaks on passes effectively which enables him to make plays on the football.
Bucannon is at his best working over the top, where he can operate as a center fielder keeping his eyes on the quarterback. He moves well, reads where the play is going and slides with it, putting him in position to make plays.
He also has experience in man coverage, working in the slot and could conceivably help as a depth corner. His technique and ability to mirror routes are pretty good physically, but he needs more reps and experience. Bucannon has played both off man and tight up on his man. There is ability and potential there and gives teams options in terms of versatility.
Bucannon has shown natural ball skills and does not waste many opportunities. When he can get to the football, he is definitely a threat to catch it. He has shown the ability to break forward on the football and undercut routes, getting the interception and being a threat to take the pass all the way to the end zone.
Bucannon has also demonstrated he can run with his back turned to the quarterback, track the football and compete for it with the receiver with a chance to not only defend it, but intercept it. He has shown to be a threat to be a ball hawk on the back end of a defense going in just about any direction.
Blitzing off the Edge
Bucannon can blitz off of the edge and has experience as a slot corner, so he could do it from there, but most of his blitzes have come from the back of the defense. Usually, Bucannon is coming up to defend the run, but he does have experience sliding up in the box and attacking in the middle of the line and going after the quarterback. His inconsistent tackling makes this somewhat of a risky venture but he has had success getting to the quarterback and getting to running plays in the middle of the offense or going to the outside.
Bucannon has a good amount of experience on special teams and this could be an area where he makes an early impact. He has played both on coverage teams and as a blocker for return units. His combination of speed and size make him a great fit to help in a lot of different areas, including trying to block kicks.
The best fit for Bucannon is as a free safety, but his first action for a team could be as an extra defensive back in nickel or dime. His physical ability is impressive and he could potentially help in coverage. He should also be able to contribute on special teams right out of the gate.
Bucannon can be an asset in coverage as a safety and in that respect, he appears ready to contribute immediately. The question is how much teams will hold his inability to tackle against him and if that keeps him off of the field initially. If he can get better as a tackler, he can not only be a starter but an impressive overall player.
In many respects, Bucannon is similar to Malcolm Jenkins of the New Orleans Saints. Jenkins was a corner coming out of Ohio State that was moved to safety while Bucannon is a safety already, but both can make plays on the football in coverage and both are miserable tacklers that can be a double-edged sword for their respective defense. Bucannon might not quite be the developed talent that Jenkins was, but he has the potential to surpass where Jenkins has gone in his NFL career.
Deone Bucannon has a knack for being able to make plays in the passing game. He has demonstrated he can cover a lot of ground and breaks on the football well. Bucannon needs to improve his ability to tackle so he can effectively protect the back end of the defense and contribute as a run defender. If he can do that, he has a significant amount of potential. In the meantime, he should be able to be quality depth that can contribute in sub packages as well as on special teams, but should he figure out how to tackle, Bucannon could end up an impact safety. As a result, Bucannon is an intriguing early third day pick that could use workouts to get himself into the back end of day two.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com