The New Orleans Saints have selected Texas S Kenny Vaccarro with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft.
Pros: Dynamic run tackler and slot defender who really excels in the front half of the defense. Jumps routes very well out of the slot and covers from tackle to tackle in motion. Shows a smooth backpedal and hip turn no matter where he's covering. Comes down to the line like a rocket from deep coverage to help on running plays; this speed also shows up when he has to jet to either sideline to help out with tackles. Excellent at trailing and mirroring slot receivers into and out of their routes. Covers speed slot receivers very well; help his own against West Virginia's Tavon Austin. As a tackler, has tended to go for the kill shot too often, but is learning to wrap up nicely in space. Extremely rangy player who will make plays other safeties simply can't -- he's very tough to elude between the seams. Has the speed and aggressiveness to blitz off the edge.
Cons: Plays a very high number of snaps and tends to wear down over time as a result -- late in games, For all of Vaccaro's dynamism, he needs to get it under control on the field at times. Tends to bite on his keys and will get lost regarding what else is going on. Struggles with angles and placement at times in the run game and will get easily blocked out as a result. Tends to bite on fakes and counters and has to use his estimable recovery speed to bail himself out. Though he can play deep halves, Vacarro isn't strictly a side-to-side burner in pass coverage -- it takes him a step too long to get to the sideline to help cover. Can be taken out of his game at times -- tends to be too emotional on the field. Tendency to aim himself like a rocket could see him on the wrong side of the NFL's discipline.
What he brings to the team: The potential to re-define New Orleans' defense. Though the NFL passing game is more and more wide open, leading to the increasing valuation of defenders who can cover a lot of ground in a big hurry, there's still a place in the league for those pass defenders who bring the lumber on nearly every play, and fly around with reckless abandon. Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed are two such players, and though Vaccarro doesn't yet possess their football acumen, it's worth mentioning that elite NFL safeties aren't generally so right out of the box -- it takes time to harness all that frantic energy. When Vaccaro does so, he'll be tough to beat.
Was it the right pick? Yes. Sean Payton's team used to be loaded at the safety position, but there's a desperate need for a run-and-chase guy who can play the full field.
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