2013 NFL Draft: Kenny Vaccaro Does It All at the Safety Position
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The 2013 NFL Draft is deep at the safety position, but most scouts believe that this year's crop does not include any elite players.
Last year, Alabama's Mark Barron was thought to be a slam dunk before the draft. Ultimately, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers snagged Barron with the No. 7 pick. In 2010, Tennessee's Eric Berry was widely considered to be a "can't-miss" player before coming off the board with the fifth overall pick.
There may not be a safety selected in the top 10 this year, but Texas' Kenny Vaccaro won't be on the board much longer than that.
Bleacher Report's NFL Draft lead writer Matt Miller currently has Vaccaro as the No. 15 prospect on his big board:
Vaccaro comes in as our top-ranked safety due to his ability to play either free or strong safety, but also because of his experience playing slot cornerback. Vaccaro's versatility, and his high level of play at all three positions, makes him the top player available at the position.
As Miller suggests, Vaccaro, at 6'1", 218 pounds, has the necessary size to play either safety position in the NFL. While there may be a handful of safeties in this year's crop capable of making an early impact, Vaccaro appears to be the most NFL-ready of the bunch.
Vaccaro has the rare ability to play man-to-man coverage as a safety. Traditionally, most safeties at the college level either play in a deep zone and read the quarterbacks eyes or they play near the line of scrimmage to help out in run defense. Vaccaro separates himself from the pack this year in his ability to stick with receivers in man coverage deep.
In addition to being the Longhorns' best safety, Vaccaro was arguably the best cover man in their entire secondary. As a result, Texas asked him to play all over the field—deep in the secondary, as well as near the line of scrimmage.
Comparing him to a current NFL player, parallels can be drawn between Vaccaro and former Packers safety Charles Woodson.
Prior to Woodson suffering a broken collarbone in 2012, the Packers used the veteran in a very unique role. In Green Bay's base 3-4 defense, Woodson played strong safety alongside Morgan Burnett. But, in their nickel package, Woodson bumped up to play slot cornerback.
Obviously, at this point of Woodson's career, Vaccaro is a much more fluid athlete than the 36-year-old Woodson. But as far as what role Vaccaro could be used in early in his NFL career, Woodson is a logical comparison.
To get a closer look at Vaccaro's versatility, look no further than the Longhorns' early-season win over Ole Miss.
He played deep in the secondary, preventing any big plays in the passing game. He played near the line of scrimmage and was physical in run support. At other times, he blitzed off the edge, providing pressure on Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace.
At one point early in the second quarter, Vaccaro made Wallace pay for not sliding on a 15-yard scramble. This play is a perfect example of where you can find Vaccaro on nearly every play—near the football.
Vaccaro's stock may take a slight hit in the draft process because the Texas defense ranked just 67th nationally in terms of yards allowed per game. But, reviewing the game film, it's easy to see Vaccaro was certainly one of the bright spots for a mediocre Longhorns 2012 defense.
An impressive showing at the NFL Scouting Combine later this month could vault Vaccaro into top-10 consideration. And there are several teams in need of safety help picking in the top-half of the first round.
At No. 9 overall, the New York Jets could consider Vaccaro if they aren't in love with any of the top pass-rushing prospects. If Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is off the board at No. 10, the Tennessee Titans could consider pairing Vaccaro with fellow Longhorn safety Michael Griffin.
The Miami Dolphins, Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams could also be in the market for Vaccaro in the middle of Round 1.
With more than two months to go before the draft, a lot can change concerning a player's draft stock. But, at this point, it'd be shocking if Vaccaro were to fall out of the first round entirely, especially considering the fact there are so many teams with a hole to fill at his position picking at the end of the first round.
Green Bay at No. 26, for example, could consider moving up in Round 1 to land Vaccaro if they feel he can fill the void left by Charles Woodson.
Vaccaro may not be getting the same respect as Eric Berry, Mark Barron and some of the most recent top safety prospects, but don't sleep on this guy. In today's NFL—in which tight ends control the middle of the field like never before—versatile safeties like Vaccaro come at a premium.
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