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Vaccaro pick caused by great Saints need to upgrade safety spot

Frustration has been a theme for Roman Harper and the Saints defense in recent years (Photo: Parker Waters)Frustration has been a theme for Roman Harper and the Saints defense in recent years (Photo: Parker Waters)NEW ORLEANS -- Kenny Vaccaro.

My initial thoughts of the Saints' selection Thursday night in the 15th slot of the first round are two-fold:

-- One, overpaid and underachieving starting strong safety Roman Harper has officially been put on notice, and running mate, free safety Malcolm Jenkins, better pick up his game. Pronto.

Remember, Jenkins is a converted cornerback who projected as a safety when the Saints took him with the 14th overall pick in the 2009 draft. To date, he has not justified that lofty status. Now three years later, team officials take a true safety at No. 15.

-- And two, let's hope Vaccaro, who's widely considered the top-rated safety in the draft, is better grounded and a more stable personality than the last player sent to the Saints by Coach Mack Brown and the Texas Longhorns.

I speak of the enigmatic Ricky Williams, the former Heisman Trophy running back who unwittingly inspired Saints coach Mike Ditka to mortgage the franchise's future in what only can be described as an utterly frivolous and foolish trade with the Washington Redskins in the 1999 draft.

Yes, Williams developed into a dependable pro for Miami after eventually finding himself, just not with the Saints.

As the first round unfolded Thursday night, it was clear the Saints were going to get a good, young defensive prospect who filled a need for first-year defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and a unit that yielded the most yards (7,042) in NFL history in 2012.

To be honest, of those players remaining when they picked at 15, I thought the chosen one would be a pass-rushing outside linebacker (i.e. Jarvis Jones or Alec Ogletree of Georgia) or a defensive lineman (DE Bjoern Warner of Florida State or Datone Jones of UCLA) or even a cornerback (Desmond Trufant of Washington, Xavier Rhodes of Florida State).

But, Vaccaro makes perfect sense.

On paper, he seems to answer the "help wanted'' ad in New Orleans for a Pro Bowl-caliber safety. He has the size (6-0, 215), the grit, the swagger, the instincts, tackles well enough and possesses decent ball skills for a back-end player. He also can cover tight ends and running backs and play in the nickel package against slot receivers.

But, he ran a pedestrian 40 time at the NFL combine (4.6 seconds) and then he suffered a hip flexor injury during a private workout for the Dallas Cowboys. Obviously, the injury isn't cause for concern.

However, the 40 time for a safety does throw up a red flag.

Also, he hasn't shown the consistency as a ball-hawk considering his hype, recording only five interceptions in 51 career games. Additionally, he has had a few run-ins with authorities. He was reportedly arrested following a fight with another Texas student in 2009 and again in 2012 after failing to obey a lawful order, a misdemeanor.

He showed good judgment a year ago when he decided not to enter the draft after his junior season in response to being given a disappointing second-round grade by the NFL Advisory Committee. So he went back to school, played well as a senior and increased his draft stock.

All in all, I like the pick.

Now all Vaccaro has to do is go out and prove the team's collective brain trust of GM Mickey Loomis, Coach Sean Payton, DC Rob Ryan and their scouting department knew what they were doing.

 

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