By drafting safety Deone Bucannon, the Arizona Cardinals now feature one of the premier secondaries in the NFL. The Washington State product will have nothing guaranteed to him until he has had a successful training camp, but Bucannon should be plugged into the starting lineup for Week 1.
Bucannon was the third safety taken in the 2014 NFL Draft behind Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, but he is bigger (6-foot-1, 216-pounds) and faster (4.49 40-yard dash) than both of those guys. Bucannon is a classic old-school safety, as he hits harder than anyone on the field and takes good angles on ball carriers. In addition, the three-year captain picked off 15 passes in his college career, so he has ball-hawking potential.
The main knock on Bucannon is that his physical style of play can lead to over-aggression, a trait that any competent NFL quarterback will expose. This is something that Bucannon must improve on in OTAs and minicamp or else he could be pushed for a starting spot during training camp. However, the Cardinals indicated that they have big plans for Bucannon by signing him to a four-year deal worth $7.71 million on Thursday.
As it stands now, Bucannon is sitting pretty on the depth chart. Ideally, the Cardinals would start him next to Tyrann Mathieu, but since Mathieu will most likely be sidelined to start the season because of injury, Rashad Johnson is the probable starter at free safety. That means Bucannon will be competing mainly with returner Tony Jefferson, who had a solid 2013 season despite barely making the team in training camp, and undrafted free agent Craig Loston.
Heading into training camp, the Cardinals boast one of the better secondaries in the entire league. Over the offseason, the team formed an exciting cornerback duo by acquiring Antonio Cromartie to play with Patrick Peterson. The addition of Bucannon to play behind Cromartie and Peterson will help the Cardinals compete with the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks for supremacy in the competitive NFC West.