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Guest Written by: Matt Johnson

The NFL is turning into a passing league and as it evolves, defensive backs become more of a necessity if you want to win games. This year the best safety in the draft in Texas Longhorns FS Kenny Vaccaro and he is the type of player teams drool over. Vaccaro rocketed up draft boards during his senior season, displaying his coverage skills and versatility. Vaccaro is definitely the best safety in this class, and would be a surprise to see him make it out of the Top 15 picks.

Measurables:

6’ 0” 214 lbs.

Strengths:

One of the immediate things I love about Kenny Vaccaro is how physically intimidating and aggressive he can be as a safety. When lined up in the slot he makes first contact with a receiver, and isn’t afraid to knock them off their route. Vaccaro can play in both zone and man-to-man coverage with the size to help inside. His aggressiveness also finds itself in the running game, where he isn’t afraid to come screaming off the edge to lay out the quarterback or down the middle to knock down the running back. Vaccaro can cover receivers and tight ends or if need be come in as a run stopper.

I mentioned earlier how Vaccaro can help in the passing game, but it is more than something he just does well. When you watch him in coverage, you believe he could be a very good corner at the next level. He can physically outmatch and wear down receivers in the slot, but he also has the athleticism and size to cover tight ends. When in coverage, Vaccaro also has shown good awareness for reading the QB’s eyes and playing the ball in coverage.

Weaknesses:

While you have to love Vaccaro’s aggressive style of play, it can also be one of his biggest downfalls. Against the run Vaccaro loves to attack, but often will over pursue the ball carrier. He will come in from the wrong angle and when he goes to attack, ends up missing on the play and letting his man break free into the open field. Just look at what happened vs. Oklahoma State when he had Joseph Randle one-on-one and a cut move later was left standing, as Randle was 10 yards down field heading for the score. He is an aggressive safety, but at times that aggressiveness can burn him.

When in coverage Vaccaro can provide great coverage, but he isn’t someone a defense can rely on for turnovers. As his 5 career interceptions indicate, Vaccaro is the type of safety who can cover guys but doesn’t make as many plays. When the ball is thrown his way, he still hasn’t proven he has the hands to hold onto it. Vaccaro also needs to work on keeping up with his man, as he doesn’t have the speed to catch up with him from behind.

Projection:

While there is plenty of speculation about where Kenny Vaccaro may go in the NFL Draft, there is very little questioning his talent. Vaccaro is a great cover safety who can play zone or even man-to-man well. He is a physical safety who can come in against the run and lay someone out, or jam a receiver at the line. Vaccaro has the versatility to play either safety position, which coaches will love. Vaccaro likely won’t make it out of the Top 15 and could even sneak his way into the Top 10.

Kenny Vaccaro Highlights:

Grade:  85/100

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