TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals traded down seven spots in the NFL draft to select safety Deone Bucannon of Washington State with the 27th pick overall.
It’s a position of need for the Cardinals, who also had a goal of adding another pick in the draft.
General manager Steve Keim immediately invoked the name of one of the best safeties the Cardinals have known.
“The guy’s a headhunter. He’s extremely physical,” Keim said. “I don’t want to mention him in the same breath as Adrian Wilson but there are some physical similarities and the same type of mentality that we were looking for.”
Bucannon, in a conference call after his selection Thursday night, called it “an honor and a blessing” to be mentioned with Wilson.
“That’s the level I want to be at,” he said.
The Cardinals dealt their No. 20 pick to New Orleans, getting the Saints’ first-round pick and their third-round choice, No. 91 overall.
The selection of the 6-foot-1, 211-pound Bucannon adds a needed component to a defense that was ranked sixth in the NFL last season but had difficulty defending the league’s big tight ends.
“He’s got the length and the speed so he can match up on slot receivers and also tight ends,” coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s an excellent blitzer, great tackler.”
Bucannon had 15 interceptions as a four-year starter, six as a senior, at Washington State.
“In our division you’d better like to hit,” Arians said. “He brings passion. That’s what I loved about him. … He’s going to be a great fit in our locker room. He’s a humble kid that loves to play the game and wants to learn from the best and we’ve got some good guys here to help him and teach him.”
Bucannon broke down with emotion when he got the call from the Cardinals telling him he was their choice.
“I want to show the fans and I want to show the team and most of all I want to show the coaches that this was a great choice,” he said.
Bucannon said he visited about 20 teams and Arizona was “by far” his preferred destination.
He mentioned cornerback Patrick Peterson and safety Tyrann Mathieu as among the reasons and said his abilities would fit the playmaking role the Cardinals want.
Bucannon could be the final piece in a secondary that, in addition to Peterson and Mathieu, includes recently signed free agent Antonio Cromartie.
“I’m an aggressive person. I love being around the ball,” Bucannon said. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the team. I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask of me. I’m a coachable guy. I only need to be told something once and I’m going to get the job done, no matter what.
“I’m not afraid to go in there and stick my nose in anything, in anybody. It doesn’t matter how big you are, I’m coming downhill regardless.”
Arizona had only six picks before the draft-night trade, having sent its seventh-round selection to Oakland as part of the Carson Palmer trade.
Bucannon, a team captain at Washington State from Fairfield, California, ranked fourth in career tackles at Washington State with 384 and second in solo tackles at 268.
“He’s a guy that we felt fell a little bit under the radar,” Keim said.
Keim said the Cardinals thought Bucannon would be there at No. 27 although it was a risk, but it also filled the team’s desire to add a draft pick.
Bucannon was one of 30 players the Cardinals brought in for a visit.
The Cardinals received several calls about trading back in the draft but didn’t want to go too far because they had their eyes on Bucannon.
“There certainly were some surprises for us and there were some players that we really liked that went ahead of us,” Keim said. “But at the same time we valued where Deone sat on our board and we knew that he could come in and potentially be an instant contributor.”
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