Saints’ Kenny Vaccaro finishes as NFL 1000’s second best strong safety of 2015


Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller is working on his NFL 1000 series, which focuses on ranking the top players at each position with a set criteria. New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro is making the cut, and in impressive fashion.

The weighted metrics include coverage, run defense, and tackling for all strong safeties. Vaccaro was ranked second out of 35 total strong safeties. The scale is graded on coverage (70 points), run defense (10 points), tackling (10 points), and the overall value of the position relative to other spots on the field (8 points). Out of a possible 98 total points, Vaccaro scored an 87. He finished only behind Kansas City’s Eric Berry.

"A first-round pick out of Texas, Vaccaro is starting to establish himself as one of the best in the league at his position. His college experience at corner helped develop strong cover skills, as he proved to be equally comfortable with both man and zone responsibilities. He showed impressive range on the back end and was even able to come down into the slot and match up well with quicker receivers.Vaccaro is a versatile defender who can make plays from anywhere on the field, and even with his strong coverage skills, he was at his best in run support in 2015. At 6’0”, 214 pounds, he’s more physical at the point of attack than some might expect of a player his size, and his instincts and quickness make him difficult for opposing blockers to line up with and fully engage.He missed 16 tackles in 2015, but considering he played over 1,000 snaps, Vaccaro’s percentages in that department aren’t as bad as they might seem. He has quick feet to break down and keep himself from getting beaten by overpursuit, and he can deliver the big hit when necessary."

Coming into the 2015 season, Kenny Vaccaro had plenty to prove. After impressing many as a rookie in 2013, Vaccaro had a major sophomore slump. His 2014 play got to the point where head coach Sean Payton opted to bench Vaccaro, but we later learned that he was battling a laundry list of injuries. Vaccaro dealt with lingering effects from his ankle injury that landed him on season-ending injured reserve as a rookie, a Grade 2 hamstring tear sustained in the first week against Atlanta, and a Grade 2 quad tear in December.

During the offseason, Vaccaro bulked up some and talked about how good he felt. He had a sour taste in his mouth from 2014, and came out to deliver in 2015. He finished the season as the true ‘Iron Man’ of the New Orleans Saints defense by playing in 99.7 percent of the team’s snaps, which was the highest on defense. Vaccaro also increased his sack totals (3), tackles (104), and matched his amount of quarterback hurries (10) from 2014.

Where Vaccaro won the most in terms of a +4.2 overall grade from Pro Football Focus was from a +7.3 run stopping grade. Of Vaccaro’s 1,076 snaps on defense, his breakdown went to 430 snaps on run defense, 57 snaps as a pass rusher, and 589 snaps in pass coverage. He also had 6 tackles for losses.

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The Saints also had three of the top 15 strong side linebackers, according to NFL 1000. Hau’oli Kikaha (15th), Nathan Stupar (8th), and Michael Mauti (4th) made Miller’s cut.