We continue our list of the Saints future defensive stars with our first round pick this year: Kenny Vaccaro. Vaccaro presents a future look to the defensive backfield for the Saints, mainly because of his versatility. This versatility allows him two potential roles. Short term it will ensure he is on the field early in his career, as he has proven that he can cover the nickle role in addition to the safety position. Long term he will be a cornerstone of the secondary. The only definite is that Vaccaro has the ability to make a serious impact.
He is the future of the safety position in a league where the lines have started to blur across traditional position categories. Tight ends catch more passes now than they ever have, running backs are getting faster and catching the ball better. Even quarterbacks are getting harder to defend, especially the ones that can run the ball or run the read-option well. Traditional safeties are getting burned, run over, or out-jumped by these guys. That isn’t even including when they have to cover traditional receivers. Enter Vaccaro.
Vaccaro has covered many top receiving prospects, including Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey of West Virginia (Rams rounds 1 and 3, respectively), Terrance Williams of Baylor (Cowboys round 3), and even the Saints own wide-out prospect in Kenny Stills of Oklahoma. His coverage of Austin is especially interesting because Austin represents a future at the wide-receiver and running back position. Vaccaro gave up some yardage against Austin but never the big play. That may seem like nothing special, all defenders should be doing that, but Austin is different. He is consistently a playmaker and will continue to be one in the pros. Austin was held in check by Vaccaro, amounting to just one touchdown, while the rest of the Texas defense, which was pretty bad last year. Here are some highlights of the role Vaccaro (#4) played against Austin:
As you can see, Vaccaro is great in run support and effective in pass defense. He is instinctive and does not give up on the play. A few of these highlights show where he chased down ball carriers from behind. All in all, while the loss was a hard one for him to chew on at the time, it helped to show his potential to the NFL.
The Saints have had a dilemma at the safety position for quite a while. Darren Sharper was the one safety who helped make us forget about the drought we have had at the safety position. Malcolm Jenkins has a lot to prove in the last season of his rookie contract and Roman Harper has proven that his strengths are in pretty much everything but pass protection. Vaccaro is guaranteed to play this season. The question is, will Jenkins or Harper be able to hold onto their positions, or will Vaccaro, a future defensive star, prove early on that he deserves to be an every-down safety?
What do you think? Is it too soon to say Vaccaro is a future defensive star? Will he be unable to steal a job from Roman Harper or Malcolm Jenkins? We want to hear your voice! Hit us up on Twitter, Facebook, or comment here!