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Deconstructing the Criticism of WSU Safety Deone Bucannon

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Deconstructing the Criticism of WSU Safety Deone Bucannon

Washington State safety Deone Bucannon at the NFL Combine. Photo by Brian Carriveau of

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.

I had Bucannon ranked as the No. 2 safety prior to the Combine, so to suggest that he could be the No. 1 safety like I did in a recent article isn't a stretch––at least not in this writer's mind.

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.

Here's just one example from Tony Pauline from, taking the time to do an interview with another Packers blog at

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 [email protected].

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al's picture

will seeeeeeeeeeeeee!

RC Packer Fan's picture

I couldn't agree more Brian.

Bucannon has been high on my list as well. I had him right there with Clinton-Dix and Pryor before the combine.

Honestly, with Pryor I'm not as concerned about his slower speed, but I'm more concerned with his height. I was thinking he was around 6'1-6'2, and he is 5'11. it doesn't help that his speed isn't very good either. That changes the way I look at him.

Pryor is a big hitter, but Bucannon can lay the wood as well...
Going into the combine I felt that speed questions had to be answered for both players. Coming away from the combine Bucannon answered questions about his speed but Pryor didn't.

I think both Bucannon and Pryor will be good players, I just would give the edge to Bucannon right now.

Tim's picture

I was scoffed at when I said it yesterday, but then Demovsky at ESPN said it today:
With Hyde's ability to play safety in base, our need at that position has dropped considerably. Not eliminated, but dropped.

My feeling is that TE and ILB are much more urgent needs, maybe even OLB (I don't trust Perry and CM3 will miss at least a couple games every year). So let's put the safety talk on the back burner...and the middle rounds of the draft....

Hank Scorpio's picture

I feel better about Micah Hyde and Morgan Burnett than Brad Jones and AJ Hawk.

Tim's picture

Totally agree. I kinda fell in love with Ryan Shazier at the combine. When Navarro Bowman came out of college, he was 6'1" and 240. Shazier was 6'1" and 237. I don't think he's too small to play ILB in a 3-4 (particularly if you give him an off-season of cheese curds). I even like him more than Mosley.

Hank Scorpio's picture

Ever since I saw Colin Kaepernick run wild in playoff game 2 years ago, I have been saying the Packers need to get serious about upgrading their LB group. In a 3-4 defense, that is the spearhead of the way you attack offenses. It is also the best way to contain mobile QBs, which are becoming more and more prevalent. Dating back to Mike Vick in first playoff loss in Lambeau (2004?), mobile QBs have given the Packers fits. Kaepernick's running again hurt them big-time in last year's playoff loss.

I don't pay attention to ranking draft prospect enough to make any comment on Shazier, per se. But an ILB in round 1 would definitely make me smile. Heck, even an outside guy would be good.

Jamie's picture

Agree on Shazier...though technically I fell in love with him watching him play.

And considering Mosely is 6'2 234...they're similarly proportioned.

Jamie's picture

A preemptive post for Stroh – I think you’re being unfairly harsh on Bucannon on his shuttle (as well as in general placing too much emphasis on one drill).

Compare his 3-cone and 20 yd shuttle to a similarly built/athletic All-pro safety in Kam Chancellor and Bucannon blows his numbers away (he also ran a much faster combine 40), and is on par with Clinton-Dix and I went ahead and threw in a very good young safety in Eric Berry as well…

Bucannon – 6.96
Chancellor – 7.36
Clinton-Dix – 7.16
Berry – 6.80

20-yd Shuttle
Bucannon – 4.26
Chancellor – 4.41
Clinton-Dix – 4.16
Berry – 4.23

Andrew's picture

Buchanon should blow his numbers away. Kam has 2 inches and 20 pounds on him. Not similarly built at all.

Jamie's picture

OK, and he did blow Chancellor's numbers away, so he did what he should have.

What's your greater point? Or is there one?

Andrew's picture

You said right in your original post you're comparing them because you think they're similarly built with similar athleticism. It's not a good comparison based on physical measurables. My post was pretty straightforward. No need to get testy.

Jamie's picture

Yes, clearly Chancellor is taller and heavier. They're both big safeties, and proportionately they're very similar. They play a similar well round and physical game.

My point is really that despite his size, and subpar drill numbers, Chancellor is a badass safety, and though not AS big, Bucannon was markedly better, THUS to point his drills out as some reason that Bucannon can't/won't be a nice safety is ludicrous.

Andrew's picture

Gotcha. I certainly agree that certain drills get overblown at times. No doubt Buchanon performed well. The scary thing about this safety crop is the overall weakness of the group and having guys getting inflated draft grades as a result. Wouldn't surprise me to see TT pass on safety until the mid to late rounds based on value.

Stroh's picture

I'm not as down on Bucannon as I was. Tho looking around I still have reservations about his ability as an NFL starter. Any talk of him as a 1st round pick is just crazy tho. CBS has him as the #82 player in the draft and a late 2nd/early 3rd rd pick. His combine performace might move him up some, but I don't see it making him a 1st round pick! That's just ridiculous talk IMO. Anyone thinking I'm to down on him and calling him a 1st rd pick is going WAY to overboard.

Every thing points to him being stiff and poor in coverage. To be perfectly honest right now I don't like any of the safeties enough to use a 1st on. I might have considered Pryor but his poor showing didn't move him up to 1st rd consideration in my view.

I still go back to the communication issues in the Secondary and think its very important to look at Safeties in FA instead of the draft. A rookie and even Hyde for that matter are going to struggle w/ the mental aspects of Safety and the communication.

Move Hyde to safety, find a FA starter. A FA starter at safety is going to have seen everything and be better equipped to make the proper calls based on what he sees, due to his experience playing the position. Collins didn't have any trouble applying Capers schemes in his first year, that tells me a veteran is needed to clean up the issues.

Possibly consider Clinton-Dix at #21, but no longer Pryor, certainly not Bucannon, not interested in another 190 lb Safety (Ward).

Get a FA starter at Safety, move Hyde to Safety and drafting a CB would be the best way to fix the secondary issues! Love me some Justin Gilbert! Looks like a possible Woodson w/ some better technique and coaching (tho not the tackler Wood was). Plus Gilbert would solve the returner questions.

Jamie's picture

I hear you on the veteran angle. I think either or both is a possibility, and as with everything with trusty Ted, it will come down to value. Can they sign a FA safety at a value, and/or does a safety prospect with value fall to one of their picks...or fall to a point where they trade up to get him.

And I don't think it's a given that Bucannon is considered a 1st rd talent by those that matter (scouts and GMs), and could see him as late 2nd/early 3rd rd guy. I just really like what he brings as a potential field tilter, and think he's got more overall value than most of the others in his class.

Clinton-Dix is growing on me as well, so I may be leaning toward him as my #1 safety. I just think he has the ability to do things in coverage (incl man-to-man) that the others can't, as well as be physical, and also cover the backend sideline to sideline. That skill may be unique to him and Ward in this class. He also has room to add a few pounds and not lose agility/speed, so he can pack more of a punch.

Andrew's picture

If Hyde gets moved into the Woodson role then we still need either a capable body to play safety in dime when Hyde covers the slot, or find a decent slot guy and keep Hyde at safety at all times. Jason Verrett really impressed me, wouldn't be a bad pick in a trade back scenario. Don't see him as an outside guy with his size, but he could be a Brandon Boykin type if you move him in. That way Hyde can stay put and we've got Hayward and Verrett (or house) in the slot.

Although it's hard to go this route when we really have no idea how Hyde would be at safety. Lots of speculation on our part, but anything has to be better than Jennings...

Hank Scorpio's picture


You're overselling the level of uncertainty in Hyde playing Safety. By a lot.

In fact, we have a very good idea how Hyde would do at Safety--as good of an idea as ANY other option. He is not making a leap in competition from college to pro. He is not moving to a new environment on a new team with a new defense like a vet FA would be. He's not even moving to a completely foreign position, since the Packers use their Safeties a lot like they use their nickel and dime DBs.

More importantly, the Packers have an even better idea than we do. They have seen him every day in practice and interacted with him to know him even better than we do from watching games only.

It is not like moving Hyde is throwing a dart at a board while blindfolded. There is more known than unknown, IMO. Especially for those inside Lambeau. They may not have 100% certainty (what is 100% certain?) but they have a lot of hard evidence from personal experience to make a very well informed judgement. This offseason will tell us what they think in how aggressively they pursue Safety help. I don't think they will be as aggressive as the level of play in 2013 suggests they should.

Andrew's picture

Point well taken. We definitely know Hyde is extremely capable in the slot, which as you mentioned is a quality we like our safeties to have. I guess I should have been a little more specific about my concerns about him playing the deep half or third as a true safety. Playing at depth and playing near the line of scrimmage are different enough where there will be a learning curve. Pre snap reads, peripheral vision and the ability see route combinations happening right in front of you to anticipate where the ball is going is tough as a safety. Very different than playing man to man in the slot, or a shallow zone as a corner. I played both in college, DIII level, though.

I like that he played a few games at safety at Iowa, and I think he has the "feel" for the game that you need to make the transition, though. I'm excited about the possible move, even if it comes with a few small reservations on my part.

Hank Scorpio's picture

You're certainly right that lining up deep will be a new thing for Hyde. It certainly requires a better understanding of the big picture than the close-in view a guy would get from the slot. Which is why I think they still need to add a guy via FA or early in the draft, despite being very exciting to see what Hyde can do as a Safety.

Now, I have to cop to being guilty of overselling my case. There is one name in FA that has even less uncertainty than Micah Hyde in terms of first-hand experience both ways. His name is Charles Woodson. He's not the player he once was but I think he has another year in the tank to serve as transitional buffer.

benagain's picture

#1DE:Jadeveon Clowney #2OT:Matthews OT:Taylor Lewan OT:Greg Robinson LB:Kahlil Mack CB:Jason Varrett DT:Aaron Donald QB:Bortles WR:Brandin Cooks WR:Sammy Watkins WR:Mike Evans LB:Barr CB:Justin Gilbert LB:Ryan Shazier LB:Kyle VanNoy QB:Manziel QB:Bridgewater CB:Kyle Fuller QB:Derek Carr S:Jimmy Ward #21S:DEONE BUCANNON CB:Darqueze Dennard DT:Timmy Jernigan DT:Hageman OT:Zach Martin WR:O'del Beckham LB:Telvin Smith WR:Marquise Lee QB:Kenny Garapollo OLB:Jeremiah Attaochu CB:Bradley Roby TE:Eric Ebron #33DE:Dee Ford

Jamie's picture

Agree to disagree.

Evan's picture

You understood that?

Jamie's picture


benagain's picture

Eevon don't get it?

benagain's picture

ataboy Jamie, you wouldn't want evon to be a moron all by himself. there wasn't really all that much too get...even for Evon

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah... I have no idea what this is about either...

Benagain- can you elaborate on this?

ray nichkee's picture

Benagain apears to be predicting the first 33 picks. Why, I don't know. Then he thinks other people are morons because he has a lack of orgaizational typing skills. He should give evan some respect and spell his name right. Perhaps he can elaborate on why he chose to post his comments. He has the pack taking bucannon at 21.

Evan's picture

I'm just happy he's given up his Clay Nitschke nonsense.

benagain's picture

Jamie disagrees, but then pretends not to get it. If you can't figure it out, I can't help you. Could I be ranking what I believe the top 33 prospects? Bucannon specifically?

Those who need further elaboration: I put the best player in this year's draft 1st. Him being listed 1st, the "#1" next to his name, or his name being Jadeveon Clowney should have tipped you off. The next player listed is the next best player in this years draft. He has a "#2" in front of his name. Now, can anybody tell me what the next name on the list might represent? #1, #2, #?

Andrew's picture

Buchanon is a nice player, but I'll be pretty surprised to see him sneak in the first. If Jimmie Ward runs well at his pro day he'll be one to watch rising up draft boards because he arguably has the best pure cover skills out of this top group of safeties. He's also a very sure tackler for a smaller guy. The 40 and vert will be big for him.

Terrence Brooks probably got a nice boost after an excellent combine showing as well. I think he's a name that got lost in the shuffle on a stacked FSU defense. Nice looking player.

Nononsense's picture

What was his wonderlick score, anyone know? Compare the top 3 or 4 guys in that category please.

Stroh's picture

Not too concerned about it. Collins had a terrible Wonderlic and he did fine. Any safety the Packers draft is going to have to gain NFL experience as well as learn Capers complex scheme. Probably looking year 3 before a rookie safety starts to make an impact and be counted on to make a lot of the calls.

Tim's picture

Packers mock:
1. Ryan Shazier ILB
2. Marcus Smith OLB
3. CJ Fiedorowicz TE
3. Terrence Brooks S
4. Justin Ellis NT
5. Brent Urban DE
6. Aaron Colvin CB
7. De'Anthony Thomas KR/PR
7. Beau Allen NT

Your thoughts?

Jordan's picture

My only question is......are you assuming Shields, Raji, Pickett, Jolly won't be resigned? If Raji, Pickett, Jolly aren't resigned, I would think TT would take a DL much earlier in draft.

If it's true that Packers don't resign James Jones, I would assume that Packers would take WR in first 5 rounds.

If it's true that Packers don't resign Dietrich, I would assume packers would take OL/C at some point later in draft so they don't have to use Lang as backup center.

I'm basing my assumptions on TT past trends. Nothing set in stone. But looking at positions packers could potentially be losing is where I personally always start. TT will typically try to add depth or competition at those positions (or get lucky and find an immediate starter)

DL Pickett Raji jolly
S Jennings
WR jones
TE Finley quarless
ILB lattimore
RB Starks
C/G Dietrich smith
CB shields
OLB Neal

My above position list is in no particular order and subject to change depending on what happens with free agents.

I haven't looked at players yet, so can't comment there. I'm still sorting out most likely positions.

RC Packer Fan's picture

That's not bad. Not bad at all..

I would expect them to draft a WR at some point though. Probably in the middle rounds.

Are you suggesting that the Packers will receive 2 Compensation picks this year? 3rd and 7th rounds?

Hank Scorpio's picture

They will definitely get 2 comp picks. One for Greg Jennings and one for Erik Walden.

Comp picks are nearly all about the value of the contract. Performance factors in but not by a whole lot. Which is good since both guys disappointed their new teams. Walden got $16 mil from Indy with $8 mil guaranteed. Jennings got $45 mil with $18 mil guaranteed. Our site host Brian has suggested a 4 & 6 for those two, which seems about right to me--although I can see Walden signing yielding a 5, not a 6.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Yeah, I think they will get 2 comp picks. It seems that the Packers never get as high as we think they should.
I think they should get a 3rd for Jennings, and probably a 6th for Walden. But lets be honest, if we get a 7th for Walden its been then nothing.
If I had to guess I would guess a 4th and 7th for the 2 players.

Andrew's picture

Can't remember the site I saw this on, but basically it was a guy who had a good track record of predicting comps and he had us getting a 3rd and a 6th. 6th for Walden seems right based on the contract and that he was a starter for the Colts, but I'm still skeptical on the 3rd for Jennings. I'm leaning 4th. Still, the fact that he thought we'd get a 3rd is slightly encouraging.

Edit: Here it is. Take it with a grain of salt.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Thanks for providing that.

It would be great if Jennings provided a 3rd. In this draft especially, that would be huge.

I'm just always skeptical. So I will hope for a 3 but think they will get a 4th.

I think Walden should bring a 6th but I could see it being a 7th.

Hank Scorpio's picture


The link mentions AdamTJ13. I remember reading Adam's writing about comp picks years ago. I think he's sort of the godfather of comp pick projections. Based on Adam's theories, the writer projects a borderline 3/4 for Jennings and an early 6 for Walden. I would love to see a day 2 pick for Jennings. 3 Day picks would be nice.

Brian Carriveau's picture

I agree, I'm coming around to the idea that it's probably more likely to be a fifth rounder, but obviously nothing is set in stone.

Hank Scorpio's picture

RE: CJ Fiedorowicz

The Packers have done well with guys from Iowa lately--Bulaga, Daniels and Hyde come to mind immediately. Of that group, Bulaga is the most questionable pick and that is only due to injury issues. When healthy, he's a good RT. Daniels and Hyde were day 3 steals.

I would love the positional breakdown of Tim's mock draft. It's pretty much the exact order of my opinion of their needs. My only quibble would be I think they should draft a WR that goes 6'2" or above somewhere along the line. There is just too much uncertainty with Jones a FA this year and Nelson and Cobb going into the final year of their contracts.

RC Packer Fan's picture

Thompson has really liked Iowa guys.

Another Iowa guy to keep an eye out for is Christian Kirksey. He will be around a 3rd round pick.
He would be an ILB for the Packers. I was impressed with him at the Senior Bowl.
Someone to keep an eye on.

I agree that they will likely find a WR.
I have suggested before that they could come away from the draft with 2. A bigger type and a smaller/returner type. Thomas would fit that role. I also really like Archer, and that was before his blazing 40.
I don't think they will come away with 2 but I could see that as a possibility.

mick's picture

This to me would be an excellent draft but now please redo it with 3rd & 6th rnd comp. picks included.

ray nichkee's picture

I am not as concerned as most people about an instant upgrade at safety in the first round. Sure there is plenty of room for improvement there but it all starts up front by getting pressure on the QB and containing him. I think nix would be a guy the pack can get at 21 and plug in right away. A safety will take a few years to grow into his position. If the front seven was doing its job last year the secondary would have looked better. It will be interesting to see what happens. We may see a turnover of about half of the starting defense. I can't wait. I has got to get better.

ray nichkee's picture

Evan, I just stuck up for you and I hope you can elaborate on your last comment so I don't think you are a moron. If you haven't noticed there has not been a lot of negativity going on lately because the haters are gone. They think that I. And other posters are homers because we don't say fire him, he sucks, the defense sucks, etc. The point of commenting is to converse, educate, learn, and relate with other fans while agreeing or disagreeing. Many come here to enjoy as I do and some come here to piss people off. Which one are you?

Evan's picture

Not sure which comment you're referring to?

Jamie's picture

How you gonna do Ray like that??

Evan's picture

I have no idea what's going on...ha

ray nichkee's picture

Clay nitschke nonsense. Clay and I are different people. We are not using multiple ailiases to create a group of support. You spelled my last name wrong. (Which is an alias) I am one dude posting and chose a posting name that is a knock off of one badass packer who I did not get to enjoy see. From the film and what I hear he was not the best linebacker but he was fun to watch make plays.

Jamie's picture

Ray - I can vouch for Evan that he was not referring to you.

Evan's picture

Oh! No, no, no...not talking about you at all.

That was in reference to Ben, who used to constantly spam the comment sections with this 2,000 word blueprint for the 2014 Packers, which always included transitioning to the 4-3 and moving Matthews to MLB, where he'd be the best Packers MLB since Ray (known as "Clay Nitschke").

EDIT: Thanks, Jamie.

ray nichkee's picture

Alright evan, we're still pals, just like the rest of the true packer fans. That was too much of a coincidence and I almost took it personally. At least I didn't overreact and fire back with my full arsenal. Go pack

robbie's picture

Yea I'm with you, ive had him as the best safety since halfway thru the college season. He's a beast. Look at all those ints. Even more impressive is all the passes broken up. Ha ha is going to be a joke in the NFL, pryor is the next marriweather, and by that I mean a guy who cannot cover the deep half and will get himself bounced around to 2 or 3 teams in as many years before getting fined and suspended out of the league. Bucannon tho, at worst is an upgrade over burnett. And vastly better than what we've had opposite him since Collins injury. And on covering slot wrs. Show me the safety that does that 1 on 1 well in zero coverage with no pass rush? If he is available in the 2nd and we don't draft him I m gonna be pissed. Unless of COURSE the other 31 teams are dumb enough to pass by him and We get him in the 3rd

Lars's picture

I think you should be more upset with Buchananon for not vindicating your faith in him that an analyst for stating the obvious about the youngster's failure at the Senior Bowl. If he can cover, he's not going to be able to man that FS role. The Packers already have one Burnett on the roster and Hyde will play the slot/ in dime situations.

Nieman's picture

This read like an apology. Even before the Senior Bowl there were questions about his coverage, but my biggest issue with him is inconsistent tackling.

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