Once the 49ers lost their starting strong safety, Donte Whitner, to the Cleveland Browns via free agency, it only took the team minutes to find his replacement. The former Indianapolis Colt, and soon to be 30-year old safety, Antoine Bethea, appears to be Whitner's replacement.
Bringing in a 30-year old safety certainly doesn't lock up that position long term, and for that reason, it's likely the 49ers bring in a rookie safety that can step in at a moments notice. There isn't tremendous depth behind Bethea and Eric Reid, as C.J. Spillman and Bubba Ventrone are special teams players, and Craig Dahl just isn't starter material. Enter Washington State safety Deone Bucannon... perhaps.
Name: Deone Bucannon
College: Washington State
Weight: 211 lbs
Arm Length: 32 3/8"
Forty Yard Dash: 4.49
Bench Press: 19 Reps
Vertical: 36.5 inches
- Big Hitter, provides thump at the position, delivering bone-jarring hits
- Very fast running downhill
- Good run defender
- Although inconsistent in coverage, he flashes ball skills
- Can play special teams
- Has shown he's able to square his defender up and lay the wood fundamentally sound, but still inconsistent
- Tackles nothing but air some plays, blindly stabbing at the defender instead of pursuing the ball carrier as he should. This has lead to big plays for opposing offenses.
- Takes questionable angles too often, leading to more yardage given up.
- His catch-up speed doesn't appear to be of the 4.49 forty variety he ran at the combine.
- Overly aggressive on plays that he shouldn't be. This appears to be due to lack of play recognition, which is lacking both pre-snap and post-snap.
- Gets blocked out of a play too easily. Block-shedding improvement would be nice to see
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Why He Fits The 49ers
After signing Antoine Bethea, the 49ers can afford to invest in a pick at safety that has time to develop. Bucannon is not ready to start day one, and sitting behind Bethea for a year or more could do him well. While fine-tuning his game, Bucannon would be able to play on special teams, which is valuable experience. Ideally, Bucannon pans out and becomes a fundamentally sound safety like the one next to him, Eric Reid. Another thing that could make him a Niner fit is his height and arm length. 6'1" and over 32" arms make for an intriguing prospect... on paper.
Why He doesn't Fit The 49ers
The 49ers may not want to invest in a player with a lot of holes in his game. Currently, Bucannon couldn't step in at a moments notice to become a starting safety in the NFL, he'd get exposed very fast. There's a good chance Bucannon can correct his mistakes, but there are also red flags in his evaluation. Would a team that drafted Eric Reid, a fundamentally sound safety at LSU, draft a safety the following year in the early rounds (late second or third) that is far more raw? I'm not sure they will go that route. He hits hard, that part of his game makes him a Niner fit, but the lack of fundamentals play to play makes him the opposite of a fit. Finally, The range in which Bucannon is drafted could be better utilized on drafting a player that can play both safety and slot-corner, perhaps Florida State's LaMarcus Joyner?
What They Are Saying
Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor thinks Bucannon is going to be a stud:
-SB Nation's Cougcenter blog says Bucannon is even more jacked than he was at the end of last season.
-Check out Bucannon's stats at cfbstats.com
In this evaluation I may be going a little harsh on Bucannon, but it's out of love. I like this prospect, and he flashes good ability in all facets of defense, but that is the problem, they're just flashes. Inconsistency could plague Bucannon and have fans at home screaming at their television. I would not invest a second round selection in the prospect presently, but if he slips into the third I'd have no problem if the 49ers drafted him. It wouldn't surprise me if Bucannon slipped in the draft a bit, as I don't feel that he's as high on NFL teams' draft boards as he is on the boards of draft analysts. While Bucannon had a great combine and practice week at the Senior Bowl, it doesn't erase the bad tape of his. I don't see Bucannon starting for any team right off the bat, and if he does, he will have growing pains. However, if Bucannon's given more time to blossom... I wouldn't count him out.