NFL Draft’s Potential Patriots: Texas S Kenny Vaccaro
|03.18.13 at 2:03 pm ET|
WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that might be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2013 NFL draft. Here is one is a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.
Weight: 214 pounds
Achievements: 2012, 2011 All-Big 12 first team (coaches), 2012 Pro Football Weekly All-America first team, team captain
What he brings: The best safety in the 2013 draft is exactly what the Patriots need. A strong, athletic playmaker, he was asked to spend much of his time near the line of scrimmage, but he has the versatility to excel wherever teams need him to play. For the Patriots, that’s a safety who can come down and play in the box while also showing strong zone skills when asked to play a deep zone.
More importantly in the Patriots’ case, Vaccaro is a load in the defensive backfield who can deliver a blow to the ball-carrier — something many critics believe the Patriots have lacked in recent years — while retaining solid pass-coverage skills. Not a pure strong safety by trade, Vaccaro still fits the mold better than any current Patriot and excels in all other areas to make such a transition work.
Vaccaro’s man coverage skills and athleticism are reminiscent of former Patriot Brandon Meriweather, as his hitting ability. On the flip side, Vaccaro has displayed a tendency to be aggressive against the run and in pass coverage and has the potential to have his hand caught in the cookie jar too often against NFL offenses and engaged in an on-field fight in college. Again, qualities he shares with Meriweather.
The comparisons, though, aren’t perfect. Vaccaro is a superior prospect who, unlike the freelancing Miami product, was the quarterback of the Texas secondary during his time as a starter and has displayed strong leadership qualities as a team captain, something that Bill Belichick also views as a positive when making selections.
Although he’s athletic with solid range, Vaccaro’s ball skills aren’t elite, and his college numbers are evidence of that. While his 231 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 19 pass deflections over four seasons are indicative of an elite college safety, his five career picks are not. Keep in mind, though, defensive stats aren’t the best measuring stick for defensive performance, as Vaccaro’s draft stock indicates. They are, however, a factor.
Where the Patriots could get him: Round 1 (likely via a trade to move up)
Notes: In the past, there was a possibility that a versatile safety like Vaccaro could slip down toward the end of the first round. However, NFL teams have placed great value in larger defensive backs to take on some of the larger physical freaks that offenses are unleashing these days, particularly the tight ends. Last year’s selection of Alabama’s Mark Barron at No. 7 overall by Tampa Bay was evidence was this trend. If the Patriots are to have a shot at the Texas safety, they’ll likely have to make a move.
Vaccaro has an unorthodox combination of a solid reputation as a locker room leader with some character questions. As referenced earlier, Vaccaro punched an opposing player during the 2012 Alamo Bowl, although he was not ejected. He also was arrested after a fight with a fellow student in 2009 and for failing to comply with a police officer while waiting for pizza last May. These concerns will all be addressed during draft process interviews, although it’s unlikely to have a significant impact on his draft stock.
Related articles: SB Nation: A tribute to Texas Longhorns DB Kenny Vaccaro
Video: Here’s a package of Vaccaro highlights from the 2012 season.