From Prospect To Pro: Comparing Deone Bucannon To Eric Berry
One of the toughest positions to play in the modern day NFL is safety. With lawsuits coming from every direction regarding head injuries sustained by former players, the NFL needs to protect itself by taking away big hits which used to be clean plays. Safeties need to be aware of where they hit a player, if the player is in a position to take the hit or is defenseless, and they can't lower their necks or heads whatsoever because the helmet is now considered a weapon. With all of this in mind, defensive prospects need to cater their game to the new rules. And in order to succeed at the next level, they need to diminish the brutality of their hits while maintaining the raw talent and unique skills which made them such good prospects in the first place.
Deone Bucannon is probably the second- or third-best safety prospect entering the 2014 Draft. He's a 6-foot-1, 215 pound senior made of pure solid muscle. He is built similarly to Eric Berry of the Kansas City Chiefs, and his game reminds me a lot of Berry's game.
Berry was a star safety at Tennessee and was considered one of the best safety prospects in years when he was drafted 5th overall in 2010. He's a two-time Pro Bowler yet we still haven't been able to see his full potential due to injuries.
Like Berry, Bucannon is as strong as a linebacker and it shows when he hits running backs and receivers alike. It's not that Bucannon is a dirty player; he is simply stronger than most players on the field, and when he knocks a player back five yards, it appears as a vicious hit. It may be one of the only cons to his game, his ability to tackle a player at the waist with perfect form and make it look like a spearing hit. He has 85 tackles this season, has had at least 80 in all four of his college seasons and even had 106 last year. He is the best tackling safety since Eric Berry.
Bucannon is a ballhawk, like Berry and has 14 career interceptions (five this season). Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown only six career picks -- Bucannon has intercepted him twice in one game last season. Bucannon is fast and great in pursuit of the ballcarrier as well as in coverage. He'll jump routes for interceptions routinely and also has a knack for forcing fumbles -- he has three this season and six in his career. He also has 12 career TFL which is rather impressive for a strong safety playing 15 yards behind the scrimmage most of the time.
Bucannon plays the safety position the way it was meant to be played, staying grounded with his eyes on the quarterback and only leaving his feet when lunging for an interception. He chases down QBs with his arms up for a deflection and if the QB isn't quick enough, Bucannon will take him down. He's a well-coached safety prospect with all the skills needed to succeed in the NFL, and I would be surprised if he drops to the middle of the second round in the 2014 Draft.