With the emergence of Kenny Vaccaro, the acquisition of Jairus Byrd and re-signing of Rafael Bush, a safety was not an area of concern for the New Orleans Saints. However, they still managed to make a surprising move by selecting Vinnie Sunseri in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.
Sunseri started his high school ball in North Carolina where he was named defensive player of the year as a junior after making 107 tackles and 15 of them for a loss. A coach’s son, he moved to Tuscaloosa for his senior year after his father was named the linebackers coach at the University of Alabama. Sunseri was named the Alabama 6A Defensive Players of the Year in 2010.
In 2011, he joined the Crimson Tide as a true freshman and played in all 13 games as a backup safety. He was the team’s top dime back in 2012, starting eight of 14 games. Sunseri began 2013 with an outstanding performance by scoring a touchdown on an interception return in each of the first two games of the season. He was a starting safety for the first seven games before tearing his ACL in the Oct. 19 game against Arkansas on the opening kickoff.
The injury forced him to be medically excluded from the NFL Scouting Combine, but that did not stop the Saints from drafting him. Being a coach’s son and a product of Nick Saban, Sunseri is well-prepared for life at the next level. He is a leader on defense and made all the calls in the secondary for the Crimson Tide when he was on the field.
He lacks the top-end speed to be a threat in man-to-man coverage, but his size, hands and ability to read and react quickly help make up for that. New Orleans defensive coordinator Rob Ryan tends to run three-safety sets, which will give Sunseri a better opportunity to earn playing time for the Black and Gold. Vaccaro and Byrd have the starting two spots on lock down. After them, Rafael Bush will likely see a majority of the action.
Sunseri, Marcus Ball, Pierre Warren and Ty Zimmerman will all look to make their case for a spot on the roster. The former Alabama defensive back has the brains and the mechanics to eventually develop into a starting safety, but I can see him making an immediate impact on special teams for the Saints. Training camp is just around the corner, so it will be interesting to see what New Orleans has in store for the young talent.