Even with the signing of veteran safety Jim Leonhard and still allowing Roman Harper to hang around, the New Orleans Saints could look to upgrade the safety position in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
When it comes to safeties, none even come close to matching the man standing at the top of the class—Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro.
Vaccaro is projected to go anywhere between the top 10-20 picks, and could very well fall to the Saints at 15. There are a few teams with a need at the position in front of the Saints, including the St. Louis Rams.
If Vaccaro falls, the Saints are going to have a tough decision on their hands. There will be plenty of talented outside linebackers available, not to mention a few offensive tackles who could upgrade the offensive line. The very real possibility of trading down and acquiring more picks will be ever present as well.
Then again, finding a rare talent such as Vaccaro who can play either free or strong safety doesn’t come around often. Safety is one of the weakest positions in the NFL—the Saints should know why. The position is so weak that Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Mark Barron was in Vaccaro’s position a season ago and went in the top 10.
Vaccaro may do the same. If not, the Saints may have to pull the trigger. Let’s take a closer look at Vaccaro’s game.
Pros: Elite blend of strength and athleticism that makes him a force against the run and pass. Versatile/athletic enough to play either safety spot. Great size at 6’0″ and 214 pounds and has used that to fill in as a nickel corner as well. Fast enough to stay with most receivers thanks to great hip work. Great ball skills that allow him to routinely catch balls away from his body.
Sheds blocks with ease and in a fashion that allows him to make a play on the ball carrier. Also excels as a pass-rush when asked thanks to his combination of speed and strength.
Cons: Spent most of his career in man coverage around the line of scrimmage. Has to work on his back pedal and playing deep as a center-fielder. Susceptible to biting on the play action and can be weak in zone coverage at times. At times can get out of control attempting to attack a ball carrier and whiff on a tackle.
Pro Comparison: Charles Woodson
It may seem unfair to dish out this kind of comparison, but it makes more sense than you think. Obviously we can’t expect Vaccaro to produce like Woodson did throughout his Hall-of-Fame career, but they are similar players.
Coming out of college, Woodson was an extremely athletic player who could line up at any defensive back position on the field and stay in the game for any situation. He was a bit undersized, but overcame that with great instincts and ball skills.
Vaccaro has almost identical measureables and versatility when compared to Woodson. The only difference is Woodson ran faster times coming into the league, but that’s something Vaccaro can make up for with smart play.
Again, it would be irresponsible to expect Vaccaro to turn out anything like Woodson, but he shares numerous traits with one of the NFL’s greatest players. It may be hard for New Orleans to pass on that.