Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro is one of the highest rated senior safety prospects this year. If you didn't know, my Washington Redskins happen to be one of the worst teams in the NFL at the safety position (and just secondary all together). So naturally I was intrigued. I found a @Jmpasq video cut up of Vaccaro against Oklahoma State this year, here's what I took away from the game.
I've read reports about his versatility and athleticism that enable him to play either safety position. But, at least in his game, his run support isn't up to scratch to play strong safety. One on of the first few runs of the game, he finds himself in a position to make a play, but is beaten way too easily.
The runner squares him up.
Left flat-footed, Vaccaro is completely sold on the juke by the running back. The back evaded another tackle and took it to the house for six.
There were also occasions where Vaccaro was too easy for receivers to block.
Here Vaccaro engages with a receiver on an outside run.
The blocker gets his hands on Vaccaros' chest and has leverage on the block. Vaccaro is lead outside, away from the run.
The block is all too easy to maintain, Vaccaro never manages to get anywhere near the runner.
In coverage, his athleticism allows Texas to show a lot of different looks. Vaccaro often comes down to play slot corner in three receiver sets, which opens up the playbook to a variety of blitzes and coverages.
Vaccaro shows a blitz look, forcing the offense to adjust its protection to account for him.
But he's quick enough to drop back and cover effectively. When the ball is thrown, he's ready to break on it.
The pass is complete, but Vaccaro is able to make the tackle before the receiver can do anything with the ball. Texas get off the field on third down having given up just a field goal.
This was just one example of how Vaccaro could be used. I can just imagine how an inventive NFL coordinator could find ways to use a guy with his athleticism and versatility to disguise blitzes and coverages.
But the thing that impressed me most with Vaccaro was his play recognition. It was as if he was the Mike linebacker as he ran to make a play before anyone else had even reacted.
On this screen, the ball has yet to be throw, the receivers are hardly off the line of scrimmage and yet Varraco is already charging full steam into the blockers to blow up the play.
He forces the attention of both blockers, freeing up other defenders to make a play on the ball carrier. The play is kept to a minimal gain.
The very next play, Varraco came away with an interception thanks to his play recognition ability.
Once again he lines up in the slot.
The quarterback doesn't even have his feet set to throw and Varraco is breaking on the quick hitch route.
By the time the ball is in the air, Varraco has momentum on his side ready to break infront of the receiver, while the receiver is left flat-footed out of his break.
Vaccaro makes a play on the ball and comes away with the interception.
His play recognition was a stand out trait throughout the game. He was often the first defender on the scene of those screen passes just as we saw earlier. Pair that with his versatility and athleticism that allow him to cover the slot corner as well as playing free safety and I like Varraco as a prospect. His tackling and run support appear to be pretty raw, which is somewhat disappointing for a senior. Ultimately I think that will stop him from being a top 20 pick in this draft. But he certainly has some nice tools to work with and could be molded into a very good player.