If you follow along here at Cheesehead TV, you know I've been a fan of Deone Bucannon since before the NFL Combine, where he put had a fantastic performance in the on-field workout portion of the league's annual job interview.
One thing that drove me to high heaven during the Senior Bowl was to see draft analysts criticize Bucannon for losing one-on-one battles.
Bucannon really disappointed me at the Senior Bowl. I was a big fan of Bucannon during the season, but he really struggled in man-to-man coverage drills. He was getting beat and didn’t really show the ability to quickly backpedal in transition, which tells me he will struggle if you place him over the slot receiver.
I like him as a safety, but I think he’s got some limitations. We’ll wait to see how fast he runs at the Combine, but I think third round is the earliest he’ll be taken.
It's not as if Pauline is wrong. Anyone could have tuned into the Senior Bowl practices aired on the NFL Network and seen that Bucannon struggled in one-on-one drills in Mobile.
Where Pauline is off base is to attribute any significance to Bucannon for laboring in such drills. And I don't bring this up to attack Pauline. I only use this as an example.
I felt so strongly about the matter, I took the time to seek out former Packers safety Matt Bowen at the NFL Combine, someone who's been to the Senior Bowl himself, to get his thoughts on the matter.
The following is what Bowen had to say, going into very intimate detail, and something I wanted to share here at Cheesehead TV:
First of all, it's an offensive drill. There's no pass rush. Offensive players want to high-five each other. They're supposed to win that drill. No safety help, it's playing cover-zero out in the middle of nowhere against someone you haven't studied on film. You don't know his techniques. You don't know what types of routes he wants to run.
When you look at one-on-ones for defensive backs, you should look at their footwork and their eyes. That's it. If the wide receiver catches the ball, who cares? You're looking at, do they play with the proper technique? The proper leverage? Do they use their hands in press-man? When the ball is thrown, do they drive to the upfield shoulder? Or do they look back at the quarterback? Looking back to the quarterback is a negative. If they drive the upfield shoulder and do their job, you know what, then you make the tackle and move onto the next play. If you look back at the quarterback who throws it over your head, it might be time to strike up the band and play the fight song.
If he gets beat in a couple one-on-ones, so what? But if he can knock a ball out every couple games with a violent hit in the middle of the field, that's more important. And like I said, they're going to develop, they're going to be up and down.
I personally think that after the Combine you're going to see draft analysts in the media catch up to what professional football scouts already know, that Bucannon is one of the top two safeties in this year's draft class.
Yes, Bucannon isn't going to be the greatest lining up over the slot receiver, but if he goes to a defense that puts him in position to succeed and doesn't ask him to do that––or at least not do it very often––it's not going to be a big deal.
For any team that heavily utilizes nickel and dime backs filling that role instead, Bucannon is going to be allowed to play to his strengths, lining up off the line of scrimmage and keeping things in front of him.
The strong safety label is applied quite frequently to Bucannon and there are ample comparisons to Kam Chancellor, but I believe he's at his best when patrolling the deep end of the field.
And that doesn't mean Bucannon can't be an enforcer type of safety from the deep half, it's just means he's going to be making plays in a different manner, flying forward and using his range to his advantage and making plays from the hash to the sideline.
Don't be surprised if and when Bucannon starts being discussed as a potential first-round safety. He's very likely already considered to be so in NFL personnel departments.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.