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New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; Darren Sharper understands the skepticism of some New Orleans Saints fans when it comes to the team's first-round draft pick, safety Kenny Vaccaro. Because Sharper himself helped to create that skepticism. Sharper set the bar ridiculously high for safeties in ...

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Old 05-03-2013, 02:39 PM   #1
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Darren Sharper understands the skepticism of some New Orleans Saints fans when it comes to the team's first-round draft pick, safety Kenny Vaccaro.

Because Sharper himself helped to create that skepticism. Sharper set the bar ridiculously high for safeties in NOLA when he intercepted nine passes for the Saints in 2009. And like a lot of fans, Sharper admits that interceptions are the first thing he always looks for in safeties. So when he saw that Vaccaro had only five career picks at Texas, "it kind of opens my eyes." But Sharper also admits that he's more obsessed with interceptions than most.

He called them a "luxury," and said it's not always the most important skill set for safeties - especially in today's pass-happy NFL.
And from everything he's heard, Vaccaro's overall skill set is awfully impressive. "I talked to a couple coaches and scouts around the league, and they think he's the real deal," said Sharper, who now analyzes the league for the NFL Network. "A versatile safety who can play either position, and also go down on the slot and make some plays."

That seems to be a wildly popular opinion among scouts, coaches and draft analysts around the NFL.

Although Vaccaro didn't have eye-popping numbers in college or eye-popping results in pre-draft tests like the 40-yard dash, he was almost universally rated as the top safety in this year's draft class -- ranked between 10th and 25th on just about every analyst's list.

Longtime NFL personnel guru Gil Brandt, who is based in Texas and knows Vaccaro well, raved about his talent, toughness and his attitude.

"I think without question, the Saints made the right choice," said Brandt, who now analyzes the league for NFL.com.

Former NFL safety Matt Bowen was even more emphatic with his praise, tweeting last Thursday that Vaccaro to the Saints was his "favorite pick of the night." Admittedly, Bowen is biased toward defensive backs. But that also gives him a greater appreciation for the kind of impact Vaccaro could have in New Orleans. And he said it was the specific pairing of the versatile athlete and the Saints' new pressure-oriented defense under coordinator Rob Ryan that made him like the pick so much.

"You have to look at the scheme first," said Bowen, who now analyzes the league for ESPN.com and the Chicago Tribune among other outlets. "Now, Kenny Vaccaro could play in any scheme. He could play in the back half of the field somewhere, and he would have been a great pickup. But with Rob Ryan's pressure defense, I believe the safety position is so demanding, you have to have a playmaker there. "You have to have position flexibility, guys who play both strong and free. They're gonna do a lot of adjusting pre-snap in a pressure system, moving with motion. They need guys who can cover the slot, the middle third, the deep half. This kid can do that. "I think (former LSU and current San Francisco 49ers safety) Eric Reid would've been great there too. But Vaccaro had the highest grade of all the safeties."

UNDERRATED LONGHORNS STAR
After the Saints drafted Vaccaro, I had heard from a couple different people that regularly watched Texas football who said they were surprised to see him rated so high by NFL evaluators. That he wasn't as special in college as recent top Longhorns draft picks like safety Earl Thomas and pass rusher Brian Orakpo. So I reached out this week to a couple people who follow Texas football very closely to see if they were less impressed by Vaccaro.

And that wasn't the case at all. Both Brandt and Longhorns beat writer Mike Finger from the San Antonio News-Express insisted that the 6-foot, 214-pounder was a great player who was overshadowed by being stuck in a very bad defense (the Longhorns set a school record for yards allowed last year, so Vaccaro should feel right at home with the Saints).


"He was asked to cover a multitude of sins," said Finger, who explained that when Vaccaro was moved up to help the run defense, the pass defense suffered, and vice versa. "Time and again, you'd see cornerbacks getting burned deep or guys missing tackles. But it was never him." Last year, the Longhorns used Vaccaro in an extremely important role, matching him up in the slot against the top opposing receivers, like West Virginia's Tavon Austin. And Vaccaro excelled - but teams would just throw away from him.

"I would not compare him to Earl Thomas," Finger said of the former first-round pick who is thriving now with the Seattle Seahawks. "He's not Earl Thomas, who's more of a faster guy, a playmaker type who's gonna intercept passes. Vaccaro's not gonna intercept passes, he's gonna blow people up. "He's the biggest hitter Texas has had in their secondary since going back to the national championship days. His run support is unquestioned. But he's not a liability in coverage at all."

Vaccaro finished last season with 107 tackles, two interceptions, five pass break-ups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. As a junior, he had 82 tackles, two interceptions, eight pass break-ups and two sacks.

Finger said some Texas observers felt like Vaccaro may have been one of the most underrated players among the fan base in recent memory. But that every coach he ever spoke to about Vaccaro praised him.

To that point, Vaccaro was only an honorable-mention all-Big 12 selection among the conference's media members as a junior in 2011, then a second-teamer in 2012. But he was selected first-team all-conference by the coaches both years. And he finished third in the coaches' Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2011. "Let me say first of all, he will add toughness to your football team," Brandt said. "If you want to see a great game, they were getting beat into submission by Oklahoma last year (a 63-21 loss). Late in the game, most of them were taking their uniforms off, so to speak. But this guy, 'til the final whistle, was playing as hard as you can."

Brandt said he first met Vaccaro when Texas coach Mack Brown made a point of introducing them at a pregame breakfast during Vaccaro's freshman year. And he said he's liked everything about his makeup ever since.
Brandt said Vaccaro is "dedicated to football." He'll work hard in the weight room and in the offseason and play hard when he's banged up.

"Now, he's a player that when you look at his speed, he doesn't have the 4.4 speed," Brandt said of Vaccaro, who was timed in the 40-yard dash at 4.59 seconds. "What he does have is long arms, 33 inches, and big hands. And great anticipation. "And whether he starts or not as a first-year player - and I think he will start - he'll be a tremendous special teams player for the Saints. At the end of the year, depending on how much he plays, he'll have as many tackles as anybody on special teams."

BRINGS VERSATILITY TO SAINTS
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said Vaccaro's "versatility" was the main reason he was rated so highly by so many NFL talent evaluators.

"I think with Vaccaro, he's an excellent cover guy, an intimidator, a physical presence in the secondary that gives you kind of an attitude back there. An enforcer," Kiper said this week. "He didn't run that well, which caused some teams to maybe be hesitant in the top 10 or 12. But at 15 (he filled a need for the Saints)." Bowen said he "couldn't care less" about 40-yard dash times for safeties. "Obviously you don't want a guy running a 4.8. That's a problem. But with safeties, it's more about angles and range and reading the QB," Bowen said. "That's why Vaccaro was rated so high. Everyone sees him as a natural player." Bowen said he would lean toward starting Vaccaro alongside Malcolm Jenkins in the back of the Saints defense - though he believes there is room for three safeties to rotate, including Roman Harper, since teams need three good ones in the NFL today.

"I look at that defense and say, 'Who are you gonna trust?'" Bowen said. "You could throw a lot of rookies out there, and you'd be rolling the dice. But I would trust this kid. Obviously he'll make some mistakes, but I'd start him from Day 1, putting him in some tough situations from the start of the preseason."


New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts | NOLA.com

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Old 05-03-2013, 03:36 PM   #2
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Re: New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

Gil Brandt and Darren Sharper are two persons whose opinion I really value. if they like the pick, so do I.
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Old 05-03-2013, 04:03 PM   #3
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Re: New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

I already liked the pick, and this just solidifies it.
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Old 05-03-2013, 05:15 PM   #4
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Re: New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

Originally Posted by Crusader View Post
Gil Brandt and Darren Sharper are two persons whose opinion I really value. if they like the pick, so do I.
+1. I agree with the beat writer ... Vaccaro was asked to do a lot on a bad defense for Texas last season.

Love the potential we have in a young safety who is humble, hungry and wants to win.
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Old 05-03-2013, 07:07 PM   #5
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Re: New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

I watch but don't really follow college. I am hopeful. I agree there is a lot more to the position than Ints
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Old 05-05-2013, 10:56 AM   #6
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Re: New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

Good article, although int.'s and speed could be helpful. I think he will be fine, good pick.
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:19 AM   #7
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Re: New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

Safety play has cost the Saints a Lombardi (after the 2011 season).

An upgrade was in order.
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Old 05-06-2013, 11:29 AM   #8
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Re: New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

Originally Posted by the-commish View Post
Safety play has cost the Saints a Lombardi (after the 2011 season).

An upgrade was in order.
No it didn't.
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Old 05-06-2013, 12:16 PM   #9
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Re: New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

You can't have everything but, man I wish he could catch interceptions more often. Maybe it's something he can be taught.
He's a hard hitter but he doesn't always wrap up.

Roman Harper is a hard hitter too but lately he's missing tackles when he doesn't wrap up. We deseperately need someone who stops a runner in their tracks.
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Old 05-06-2013, 02:30 PM   #10
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Re: New Orleans Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro doesn't need interceptions or blazing 40 times to dazzle NFL scouts

Safety Play has cost the Saints a chance for 2 years.

Both being the play of Roman Harper.
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