Kenny Vaccaro and the Texas Longhorns went into the 2012 season with high expectations. Texas proceeded to lose four games and show inconsistency from week to week. Vaccaro was one of the few bright spots from the program this last season, but he too fought through inconsistency.
Vaccaro played all over Texas' defense, showing the versatility to be a weapon all over the field. Finishing the season with 92 tackles, Vaccaro's range and relentless playing style were always on full display. Though he and the Longhorns didn't always live up to the hype in 2012, Vaccaro should come off the board early in April.
The 2013 NFL Draft is deep at the safety position. Vaccaro's fellow seniors are the strongest of the bunch, but a handful of juniors have clouded the picture as well. For that reason, Vaccaro's draft range may be tough to nail down and the discrepancies in rankings could be big among NFL teams.
Vaccaro is a big-time athlete, which is what separates him from a lot of the safeties in this draft class. That makes him a versatile weapon on defense, and Texas used him as such during his final season with the program. He played quite a bit of man coverage in the slot as a senior and was strong in that role. He showed quick hips and the physicality to match. More impressive, though, was Vaccaro's ability to diagnose plays on underneath routes. When covering the flats and quick routes, Vaccaro is able to break off his man and recognize where the play is heading. That's when his athleticism takes over. He has the straight line speed to display solid range across the field.
As a run defender, Vaccaro has some strong qualities. His speed helps him fill the lanes and make plays. He wraps up well for the most part and hits hard. Vaccaro shows upper body strength in taking on blockers and bring down ball carriers, but the relentless effort he shows might be more impressive.
When attacking the football in the air, Vaccaro demonstrates solid ball skills. He closes on the football well and has the timing and hands to make plays. He changes direction quickly enough to stay with receivers down the field. Vaccaro is also a strong blitzer. He's quick off the snap and shows the bend around the edge to get into the backfield.
Vaccaro's versatility is impressive, but he's not the most skiled player in zone coverage. He seems to lost at times and miss assignments. Often times, Vaccaro gets caught with his eyes in the backfield and loses track of what's going on in the secondary. He's a confident and aggressive in his playing style, but that often leads to some of mistakes.
As a run defender, Vaccaro needs to be more consistent. He sometimes makes himself too easy to block or over pursues in run defense. He doesn't always play with great leverage. Occasionally, he goes too high when tackling and lets players slip through him. Overall, consistency is the issue with this area of Vaccaro's game. He plays the run well at times but doesn't do so often enough to play strong safety in the NFL.
Vaccaro will be an interesting weapon for a creative defensive coordinator. The big question will be whether or not he can do some of the things he does in college once he gets to the NFL. He's a talented player that will need to be moved around the defense to be utilized to his fullest potential. With the depth of this safety class, I'm not sure he's worth a top-15 pick, but it appears likely he will be drafted in that range.
Pro comparison: Kenny Phillips, Philadelphia Eagles
Vaccaro's upside is probably that of Kenny Phillips. Phillips is a solid all-around safety, but his cover skills may be most impressive. That's an area that Vaccaro could become strong in if he continues to build on his foundation of skills.