With the new season creeping up on the Who Dat Nation, the New Orleans Saints have some sophomores who are ready to emerge into stars in 2014. From Kenny Stills to John Jenkins, theses guys will be looking to establish themselves as mass producers for the Black and Gold.
We’ve seen some outstanding first-round selections during the Sean Payton-era, and with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Kenny Vaccaro was called upon to bring his talents to the Crescent City in hopes of becoming the franchise’s long-term answer at strong safety.
Vaccaro played his college ball at the University of Texas, totaling 231 tackles, 24 passes defended, five interceptions, four forced fumbles and two sacks during his four years with the Longhorns. He was a two-time First-Team All-Big 12 selection and a First-Team All American as senior in 2012.
As a rookie in the Big Easy, he finished second on the team in solo tackles (62) and third in combined tackles (79) in 14 games played. Vaccaro also racked up a sack, an interception and a forced fumble, but his season came to an early end after braking his ankles during the week 15 matchup against the Carolina Panthers.
He was a candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year in my book, but Buffalo Bills‘ LB Kiko Alonso wasn’t allowing anybody near the award after an unbelievable performance. However, the former UT standout was still named to the All-Rookie team following a solid first-year campaign in New Orleans.
Vaccaro has just about everything you look for in a safety. His versatility, range and change of direction grant him the ability to hold down the field from sideline to sideline. He can tackle, he can cover, he can stop the run and he will knock you off your feet. His physical play corresponds well with Rob Ryan’s aggressive style on defense, though it does raise a bit of a concern in the injury aspect of the game — the kid is tough, but he’s not invincible.
With Roman Harper now out of the picture, Vaccaro’s numbers will likely see a nice little boost in 2014. The sophomore safety possesses the tools that could manufacture him into one of the great defensive backs in the National Football League. A healthy season could lead to big things for both him and the New Orleans Saints in 2014.