Bucky Brooks – NFL.com
Walter Cherepinskey – WalterFootball.com
Scott Wright – NFL Draft Countdown
Analysis: I have said before that NFL teams are seldom a safety away from winning a Super Bowl. The Cowboys are definitely one of those teams.
The release of free safety Gerald Sensabaugh earlier this month has elevated the idea that Dallas needs to address this position in the first round of the draft.
This is not to say that safety is not a position of concern, or even urgency. I'm simply going to suggest that there are more dire positions in the trenches that are more critical to the success of the Cowboys than the secondary, especially in this draft class.
I stated almost a year ago that the selection of cornerback Morris Claiborne, especially given the loss of a second-round pick to do so, would probably not result in a significant change in the win column in 2012. As it turned out, Dallas finished with the same record in 2012 that they had in 2011—but this is not Claiborne's fault.
The Cowboys were already poorly built heading into their final season in the 3-4 scheme and this applied primarily to the defensive line. In other words, if you don't stop the run very well then you can forget getting as much pressure on the quarterback as you might like. And if you don't get pressure then your secondary will often be exposed.
Vaccaro will not, by himself, change the direction of the Dallas defense. He may very well be a fine player in the NFL, be it as a strong safety or a free safety. But pressure on the quarterback has to come first and a strong defensive line has to be the priority. Once this is accomplished you start to see more 3rd-and-long situations that result in sacks and turnovers.
Vaccaro has been frequently linked to the Cowboys as he will visit Valley Ranch soon. But just because Dallas vice president Stephen Jones makes public comments about the safety position, as he did recently, does not mean that Vaccaro is the guy.
In fact, LSU free safety Eric Reid, a prospect that I feel would be a better fit in Kiffin's scheme, is also slated to visit Dallas. Reid is almost certainly not a first-round selection.
In fact, free-agent Michael Huff could also be in the discussion, although I don't see that as much of a possibility given Dallas' salary cap situation.
Vaccaro is more of a strong safety than a free safety, just given his build. Unless you believe that current strong safety Barry Church won't be given the opportunity to get his job back following last year's Achille's injury and subsequent contract extension, then a true free safety that's more of a ballhawking player makes more sense to me than Vaccaro.
Vaccaro's strength is playing close to the line of scrimmage, definitely the trait of a strong safety. More often than not, Kiffin's scheme is likely to keep safeties deeper rather than up close to the line of scrimmage.
Is this the best use of Vaccaro's skills?
This doesn't mean that Vaccaro cannot play free safety in the NFL or that his coverage skills aren't highly impressive.
It also doesn't mean that the Cowboys won't select him.
I'm just saying that just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should—and I have real doubts that Vaccaro is still on the board anyway.