The NFL is all about return on investment, and this is especially true of the NFL draft.
It is assumed that if you are drafted early, the expectation is that you can produce, and you can do so right away. The is especially true of the New Orleans Saints, who drafted safety Kenny Vaccaro with the 15th pick of the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.
Vaccaro is a special, rare type of talent that doesn’t come along every year. He’s got ideal size and elite speed, and can play the run like a linebacker or coverage like a cornerback. As I studied him in college, I was more and more impressed with every game, and think that he has the potential to be one of the best safeties in the game in the right system.
So, considering his role with the Saints as training camp approaches, I view Vaccaro as the leader to win the starting strong safety spot for the Saints. Understanding that safety Roman Harper is on the roster and has been a full-time starter for six of his seven seasons with the Saints, Vaccaro is far and away a step up.
Pairing Vaccaro with fellow safety Malcolm Jenkins would give the Saints one of the most exciting and athletic pair of safeties in the league. Harper is the consummate professional and a very smart football player. I can see him using training camp as an opportunity to mentor Vaccaro and help acclimate him to the league.
Having said that, one nice thing the Saints can consider is easing Vaccaro into the starting safety role and instead work him in as a dime cornerback as well. The Saints’ cornerback depth chart is very good. Keenan Lewis and Jabari Greer make a very formidable starting tandem, and former first-round pick Patrick Robinson appears to have the nickel cornerback spot locked down, but Vaccaro is at worst the fourth-best coverage player on the roster right now.
New defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is putting in a new attacking 3-4 defense, and having a player like Vaccaro on the field is a must. Whether he plays him up close like linebacker, off like a deep safety or in press man like a corner, Vaccaro is like a Swiss Army knife of a football player and can do it all.
Training camp is going to be a perfect chance for Vaccaro to show his skills, and for the Saints to find ways to use him.