Although Deone Bucannon’s days of playing for the Cougars are over, Washington State defensive coordinator Mike Breske can still eke out a little more production from his graduated All-American safety.
Breske is currently on a recruiting tour of the southeast. Even in places like Vicksburg, Mississippi, and Cottondale, Alabama, recruits recognize the WSU safety who led the team in interceptions and tackles in the last of his four years as a starter.
“He’s on my video board and my iPad,” Breske said. “When we’re talking to defensive backs, he’s the first guy that comes up. And they’ve heard of him, no matter what part of the country these kids are in.”
Bucannon’s notoriety will only grow this weekend, when he is a near certainty to hear his name called during one of the NFL draft’s first two days. The first of the draft’s seven rounds start at 5 p.m. today, while the second and third rounds will begin at 4 p.m. Friday.
Since his college football season ended, Bucannon has helped his already valuable draft stock, according to prevailing wisdom. He had a stellar performance at the NFL combine, finishing third among safeties in the 40-yard dash, bench press, vertical jump, three-cone shuttle and finishing second in the broad jump.
“I think that he’s certainly going to be drafted within the first couple of rounds,” Rob Rang, a senior NFL draft analyst for CBSSports.com, said. “The first round, I think that he has a chance if the top two safeties go early. I certainly expect him to be off the board by the end of the second round.”
If that holds true, the safety will be WSU’s highest-picked alum since Seattle made Marcus Trufant the 11th overall pick in 2003.
Bucannon is likely to be the only Cougar drafted this year, although NFL teams have also hosted kicker Andrew Furney and offensive lineman John Fullington. If they are not drafted, they could still sign with a team as a free agent with the hopes of proving themselves and sticking around either on the eventual 53-man roster or the eight-person practice squad.
Where Bucannon ends up and when he is picked will be determined by what teams need. The 6-foot-1, 211-pound Bucannon is known as a physical player and will likely go to a team with a speedy secondary that can afford to play him close to the line of scrimmage.
The Bears, Lions, Packers and Rams could all use a physical safety. The Chiefs are reportedly considering moving All-Pro safety Eric Berry to free safety, which would make Bucannon an interesting option at strong safety and mitigate Bucannon’s perceived deficiencies in coverage.
“I believe that he would be best suited for a defense that already has some speed to complement him,” Rang said. “He is such a fierce hitter, but he’s got these really long legs and I believe, historically speaking, safeties that are that long generally struggle to change directions.”
After four years as a starter in the Pac-12, the expectation is that Bucannon will not have much of a learning curve wherever he ends up. He will have played more football than most rookies, and his 384 career tackles and 15 interceptions – fourth and third most in school history, respectively, speak to his productivity in college.
While he may not start immediately, the team that drafts Bucannon will likely expect him to fill a need sooner than later.
“To me that’s one of his strengths is that the is a four-year starter, he’s someone who you can see exactly what he is on tape, so there isn’t a lot of guesswork with him,” Rang said. “Some of the other safeties in this class are a little more inconsistent.”