When scouting a player for the NFL Draft or the Dallas Cowboys, it is important to have formed your own opinion on players. “Group-think” or taking the opinions of others is lazy scouting. The truth of the matter is far too often analysts and writers don’t watch enough film to share their own opinions. It happens to everyone. In fact it happened to me this week.
I began writing this article with the full intention of telling you that Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro might be the elite, playmaking safety that Dallas Cowboy fans have longed for and if available, should be the selection with the 18th overall pick. But after watching more of Vaccaro and digging a little deeper than just highlight clips and listening to the media, I must admit I am not as impressed as I should be for a potential first round safety.
Oct 6, 2012; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns safety Kenny Vaccaro (4) looks into the back field during the game against the West Virginia Mountaineers at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium. West Virginia beat Texas 48-45. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Kenny Vaccaro is widely considered the best safety in the 2013 NFL Draft class. But he is a very different player than the other safeties in his class. Vaccaro has the rare ability to play as a deep center fielder on one play and then come into the box on the next. He can also cover the most explosive slot wide receivers college football has to offer. This was very evident when he was assigned to cover West Virginia’s Tavon Austin early in the 2012 season. Austin is one of the most electric offensive players in the entire 2013 NFL Draft and Vaccaro did a fine job coming down and limiting his production.
The NFL Combine isn’t the end all, be all for draft prospects. But what it does offer is the ability for a team to compare prospects to former draftees. For the sake of comparison, these are the last four safeties to be drafted in the first round and their measurables next to Kenny Vaccaro:
Vaccaro is a high effort, smart player who can be the quarterback of an NFL defense. However, he lacks the elite speed and athleticism of an Eric Berry or Earl Thomas. Mark Barron, Harrison Smith, and Kenny Vaccaro are similar players in terms of straight-line speed, but Vaccaro lacks the size and the elite tackling ability that Barron and Smith posses. Vaccaro does a good job at staying with quicker players, and his positional versatility will attract many teams come April.
But one thing Kenny Vaccaro hasn’t been able to do at Texas as well some safeties in this draft is create turnovers. During his four years at Texas, he was only produced five career interceptions. Last week I wrote about how the Cowboys safeties failed to create turnovers over the last two seasons which you can read right here: https://thelandryhat.com/2013/03/03/a-case-for-an-upgrade-at-safety/
The thought of drafting a safety that has yet to prove that he can take the ball away is somewhat disturbing, especially when you take into consideration the massive needs on the offensive and defensive lines. Vaccaro also isn’t the most fundamentally sound tackler. Far too often he is over-aggressive and launches his body with his head down causing him to miss open field tackles.
Feb 25, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Texas Longhorns defensive back Kenny Vaccaro gets in his defensive stance in a drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Vaccaro also has been involved in a few minor incidents during his time at Texas. He was arrested at a local pizza shop for refusing to leave. Although this was a minor offense, it would go against head coach Jason Garrett’s philosophy in terms of drafting the “right kind of guy”.
While I believe Kenny Vaccaro is going to be a good player in the NFL and deservingly belongs in the first round, I do not believe he should be the top option for the Dallas Cowboys come April. Monte Kiffin’s defensive philosophy is to emphasize speed while creating turnovers; a trait where Vaccaro is clearly deficient. I do believe he is a safe draft choice and a fall back option for Dallas. However, it is my belief that he is not going to produce the number of turnovers that the Dallas Cowboys and their fans would expect from a first round safety playing in a Monte’ Kiffin defense.