Texas Longhorn Kenny Vaccaro stands as the only sure-fire shot at a first-round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft‘s safety class, but believes his position is growing in value thanks to today’s evolving pro offenses.
“I think people are starting to appreciate safeties more now that tight ends are turning into freaks and controlling the middle of the field,” Vaccaro said in a feature by USA Today’s Josh Barnett. “You’ve got to have a safety who can cover and come up and hit.”
The 6-foot, 214-pound do-it-all safety ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash and proved during his time in the gun-slinging Big 12 that he can couple good range with an ability to lay the wood. It will be interesting to see if the proliferation of dangerous receiving tight ends increases the amount of safeties taken in round one, because it hasn’t quite shown as of yet.
Safeties taken in the first round since 2007 are as follows: Mark Barron at No. 7 and Harrison Smith at No. 29 in 2012, Eric Berry at No. 5 and Earl Thomas at No. 14 in 2010, Malcolm Jenkins at No. 14 in 2009, Kenny Phillips at No. 31 in 2008, LaRon Landry at No. 6, Michael Griffin at No. 19, Reggie Nelson at No. 21 and Brandon Meriweather at No. 24 in 2007.
Ever since that four-safety disaster in 2007 — you can argue the merits of Landry and Nelson, but not that they delivered on the value of a first-round safety — no draft has featured three safeties selected in the first round. Not included was Devin McCourty, who the New England Patriots drafted in the 2010 first round to play cornerback his rookie year before eventually realizing he could become one of the league’s best free safeties, and also the NFL’s best current safety in Eric Weddle, who went four picks into the second round.
On April 25, the league’s general managers may show whether they can hear Rob Gronkowski‘s footsteps.