Kenny Vaccaro is the latest cure for what ails the New Orleans Saints defense.
Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis ordered the medication with the 15th overall selection in the NFL Draft Thursday night.
Vaccaro has cover corner skills and speed. He closes well on the football and was a good special teams contributor initially at the University of Texas. He is physical and athletic and can play both the run and pass. He appears to be an instinctive player.
He wore different numbers last season for the Longhorns in a bit of a confusing strategy. He is the first player from Texas to be selected in the first round since 2010 when Seattle chose Earl Thomas 14th overall in the first round. Vaccaro had two interceptions, 92 tackles and seven passes defended in 2012 for Texas. He had five interceptions in his four-year stay in Austin, not the numbers of a premier ball-hawk.
Vaccaro had a smile on his face when the choice was announced. There is little doubt that he knew he was going to be the guy for New Orleans with the 15th overall pick. Many of us in the industry felt strongly that he would be the choice as well. It was not a state secret by any means.
Vaccaro had a couple of problems off the field at Texas but not enough to scare the Saints away. Character is important, talent is even more important.
The safety was a safe pick. Obviously, he was the top-ranked player on the board when the Saints chose him. Jarvis Jones was apparently a close second.
The 6-foot, 214-pound Vaccaro ran a respectable though not overly impressive 4.59 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He was fighting off the effects of a hip injury and most observers feel he can run better. He has a 38-inch vertical jump. He was the top-rated free safety in the NFL draft who is capable of playing strong safety as well. Are you listening, Malcolm Jenkins? Are you watching, Roman Harper?
OFFICIAL RELEASE -- UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS: Texas S Kenny Vaccaro was selected 15th overall by the New Orleans Saints in the 2013 NFL Draft and is the 16th first-round pick in the Mack Brown era.
Vaccaro becomes the Longhorns' tenth Top 20 pick in just the last 10 years following Earl Thomas (14, Seattle Seahawks, 2010), Brian Orakpo (13, Washington Redskins, 2009), Michael Griffin (19, Tennessee Titans, 2007), Aaron Ross (20, New York Giants, 2007), Vince Young (3, Tennessee Titans, 2006), Michael Huff (7, Oakland Raiders, 2006), Cedric Benson (4, Chicago Bears, 2005), Derrick Johnson (15, Kansas City Chiefs, 2005), and Roy Williams (7, Detroit Lions, 2004).
"Kenny Vaccaro is one of the best football players we have ever had," said Texas head coach Mack Brown. "He is tough, he's smart, he's a playmaker and he practiced like he was in a game everyday. He is very passionate about football. He brings leadership and he brings toughness. "
Mack Brown has now had at least one first-round selection in 12 of the last 18 drafts and a total of 20 first-round picks (16 Texas/four UNC) in the last 16 drafts.
Thirteen Texas DBs have now been selected in the last 12 years including Vaccaro, Aaron Williams (2011 - Buffalo Bills, second round), Curtis Brown (2011, Pittsburgh Steelers, third round), Chykie Brown (2011, Baltimore Ravens, fifth round), Thomas, Griffin, Ross, Tarell Brown (2007 - San Francisco 49ers, fifth round), Huff, Cedric Griffin (2006 - Minnesota Vikings, second round), Nathan Vasher (2004 - Chicago Bears, fourth round), Rod Babers (2003 - New York Giants, fourth round), and Quentin Jammer (2002 - San Diego Chargers, first round).
Vaccaro is the first Longhorn taken by the New Orleans Saints since Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams was selected with the fifth pick of the 1999 NFL Draft. The New Orleans Saints have now taken a total of five Texas Longhorns including Vaccaro. Former picks also include WR Jitter Fields (5th round in 1984), PK Russell Erxleben (1st round in 1979) and T Bob Simmons (3rd round in 1976).
Vaccaro, from Brownwood, Texas, led the team with a career-high 107 tackles (60 solo) in 2012. He also tallied four tackles for loss, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, four quarterback hurries and five pass break ups. He was voted 2012 team captain (along with DE Alex Okafor) at the end of the season by his teammates.
Vaccaro was selected as a first-team All-American by Pro Football Weekly in 2012. He was was also tabbed first-team 2012 All-Big 12 by the league's coaches for the second season in a row and was named second-team AP All-Big 12 by a panel of sportswriters who cover the league. Vaccaro was selected first-team AP All-Big 12 in 2011.
Vaccaro has appeared in 51 career games with 32 starts where he posted 264 tackles (162 solo), 2 sacks, 16 TFL, five interceptions, 21 pass break ups, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and 11 quarterback pressures. Vaccaro has six career double-digit tackle games and was named to the 2012 Nagurski Trophy, Bednarik Award and Thorpe Award watch lists. He was tabbed 2012 preseason first-team All-Big 12 by Athlon, Phil Steele and Lindy's magazines, was chosen to the All-Big 12 first team (coaches), second team (Fort Worth Star-Telegram) and honorable mention (AP) in 2011 and was honorable mention for Defensive Player of the Year (coaches) that same season.
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