Man-coverage ability on tight ends and slot receivers
Fluid; can flip his hips and run
Covers a lot of ground
Always around the ball
Natural playing in the box
Good height and length
Should be able to play quickly
Experienced & successful against good college talent
Rarely lined up deep
Lacks elite speed
Could be a solid pro, but not a special player
Not a physical enforcer
Summary: Safety is one of the strongest positions in the 2013 NFL Draft. There are a number of good safety prospects who could be had on the second day of the draft with some potential for depth into the third day. Considering that there are a lot of good safety prospects, it is saying something for Vaccaro to be considered the best of the class.
Vaccaro broke into the starting lineup as a junior and made his presence felt. He had 67 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, two sacks, seven passes broken up and two interceptions. Vaccaro was an All-Big XII First-Team pick in 2011.
Vaccaro was even better in 2012 as he totaled 92 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, five passes defensed, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also had some nice pass rushes on blitzes while leading Texas in tackles. The intelligent play-maker had a very strong season in which he displayed good instincts and range.
One of Vaccaro's most intriguing assets for the NFL is his ability to cover tight ends and slot receivers. Offenses have had a lot of success moving the ball and generating points with play-makers out of those positions, so he has a big appeal to a number of teams.
One prominent talent evaluator told WalterFootball.com that they don't see Vaccaro's play matching the hype he's received. That evaluator prefers some of the second-day safeties over Vaccaro. The source also said they think Vaccaro is a good player, but don't see anything truly special with him.
A big concern to some scouts is Vaccaro rarely played deep. Texas kept him in or near the tackle box. Many teams want their safeties to be interchangeable with the ability to play deep or near the line of scrimmage.
Despite those concerns, Vaccaro is still the consensus top safety in the 2013 NFL Draft and likely to be selected in the top 20. His skills to cover tight ends and slot receivers in man coverage trumps the other negatives. That ability is in serious demand in the NFL.
Vaccaro should be able to start quickly if not immediately at the next level. He will probably start out handling responsibilities that are considered to be more of a strong safety. Over time, Vaccaro should have the speed and athletic ability to become a quality defender in the deep part of the field. He should turn into a solid pro who has the upside to potentially be a pro bowler.
Player Comparison: Eric Weddle. There is a key similarity between Vaccaro and Weddle. Like Weddle, Vaccaro has the ability to cover slot receivers and tight ends. Neither Weddle or Vaccaro is overly physical laying the lumber on receivers downfield. However, both can be impact players in pass coverage.
Weddle has been selected as an All-Pro three times and has gone to the Pro Bowl. Weddle (5-11, 200) is slightly smaller than Vaccaro, and Weddle was a second-round pick in 2007, while Vaccaro figures to be a first-round pick. Plus, Vaccaro rarely lined up deep while Weddle does that often for San Diego. In the NFL, Vaccaro could turn into a player comparable to Weddle.
NFL Matches: Carolina, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Cincinnati, New England
There are lot of teams in the first round that are in need of safety help. The highest that Vaccaro could probably hope to go is to the Panthers at the 14th pick. Carolina had some of the worst safety play in the NFL in 2012. Salary-cap restrictions have kept the Panthers from bringing anything other than bargain-basement players in to compete at safety. In this deep safety draft, Carolina is more likely to address a different need early and take a safety later on.
The Rams need to improve their safety play and could consider drafting Vaccaro at pick No. 15 or pick No. 22. St. Louis could get a nice value by landing the top-rated safety in the middle of the first round.
The Steelers could use some talent at safety next to the oft-injured Troy Polamalu. A player like Vaccaro would help Pittsburgh's defense stay more consistent when Polamalu is out of the lineup.
Dallas has had safety issues for years. The team needs reliable and effective safeties to make Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 system work, but in previous years, Kiffin always used mid-round safeties in his defense.
Many believe that Vaccaro won't fall past the Bengals at pick No. 21. Cincinnati needs a safety to pair with Reggie Nelson. Vaccaro would be a good scheme fit.
If Vaccaro falls to the end of the first round, New England would make sense. The Patriots need safety help and have made it a habit to target defensive backs in the first and second round.