BY: ED COLE
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Even if Deone Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu just sniff the football field, they’re automatic locks in fantasy football. They’re both supremely talented athletes. The fantasy world knows it, and Pro Football Focus surely knows it.
Recently, PFF did a review of how defensive backs performed last season, and although Bucannon doesn’t play in the Cardinals backfield, that dollar linebacker position he plays is as close to being in the third level of the defense as he’ll get.
As a matter of fact, Ross Miles, who actually did the review for PFF, admitted that Bucannon was one of their “misses.” In their list of the top 30 defensive backs, PFF had Bucannon ranked 29th in the preseason. He ended up having the biggest jump in ranking from preseason to the end of season, where he ended up as their third best defensive back.
Miles said you’d have to have such an advanced knowledge of fantasy football to have seen Bucannon take off the way he did last season, and see that he’d be a preseason steal.
As far as Mathieu’s concerned, he came in as the No. 8 defensive back in PFF’s preseason ranking, and ended up one slot ahead of Bucannon at the end of the season at No. 2, which just goes to show the impact Mathieu had on Arizona’s defense, despite his season ending prematurely as a result of an ACL injury.
Bucannon and Mathieu are two of the rising stars in the NFL, and their numbers bear that out. Last season, Bucannon led the Cardinals defense with 127 tackles (104 solos), and he was tied with defensive tackle Calais Campbell for the team lead in tackles for loss with 17. He also added three sacks, one interception, four passes defensed, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, two quarterback pressures and two quarterback hits. Bucannon also had three unassisted special teams tackles.
Production wise, Mathieu was rolling along at a breakneck pace before the injury occurred in Philadelphia in late December. He wound up third on the Cardinals defense in tackles with 89. He also had 11 tackles for loss, one sack, a team-high five interceptions (tied with former Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson), a team-high 16 passes defensed, one forced fumble, three quarterback pressures and one quarterback hit.
Both men brought home honors for their play, with Bucannon being named “NFC Defensive Player of the Week” for his performance against the Eagles in Week 15. He got his first career interception in that game, and he took it 39 yards to the house. He also led the team with 11 tackles on the evening.
Mathieu was also named “NFC Defensive Player of the Week” after he had a career-high two interceptions in the Week 3 blowout of the San Francisco 49ers. The first interception Mathieu returned 33 yards for his first career touchdown, while the second one set up a Cardinals field goal at the end of the first half.
Mathieu was also named “NFC Defensive Player of the Month” for the month of November. He helped the Cardinals to an undefeated record that month (4-0), by posting 27 tackles (24 solos), two interceptions and five passes defensed.
In addition to those awards, Mathieu also got his first career All-Pro selection, his first Pro Bowl selection, and he was also named to the first team by the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).