If you bring up a team taking a safety in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, chances are you're talking about them selecting Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or Louisville's Calvin Pryor. Both players occupy the top two slots on NFL Media analyst Mike Mayock's positional rankings and are considered first-round locks based on recent mock drafts.
Fellow NFL Media analyst Curtis Conway is all for teams spending an early pick on either Clinton-Dix or Pryor, but thinks most folks are sleeping on Washington State's Deone Bucannon if they miss out on the pair. Conway watches a ton of Pac-12 football during the season, and as a result had plenty of ammunition as he stated his case on NFL Network's "Path to the Draft" that Bucannon is right there with the other two top safeties.
"When I watch this guy on film, he's a pro," said Conway, a former top-10 pick himself. "He's the fastest safety in the draft. He's rated, in my opinion, right there with Clinton-Dix and Pryor because he's just that good.
"This guy is easily a first round draft pick."
It would be a surprise if Bucannon makes it into the first round when the draft rolls around in May thanks to such a deep positional draft, but he probably won't have to wait long before he hears his name called on day two. The 6-foot-1, 211-pounder is currently slotted as Mayock's fourth-rated safety in the draft behind Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward.
"I think Bucannon is much more of a pure safety. He can play strong safety but I think he does a nice job in center field too," NFL Media analyst Charles Davis said. "He has better range than people give him credit for and we know he can tackle. Plus he plays huge in the big games."
As many as 12 teams could be looking to draft a safety in the first two rounds of the draft, so there's certainly a market for someone like Bucannon. It might be a stretch to say that all that demand will help push the former Cougars star into the first round but stranger things have happened when teams feel the pressure of draft
Either way, chances are high that one club will find some tremendous value by selecting the hard-hitting Bucannon to boost their secondary.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.