The Texas Longhorns are facing a significant task this offseason in replacing the diverse skills of safety Kenny Vaccaro, who departs the 40 Acres after four occasionally brilliant and sometimes frustrating seasons at Texas.
The buzz around Vaccaro has increased in recent days as draft analysts break down film on the safety with remarkable coverage skills for his position and there has been plenty of praise, helping to boost projections of Vaccaro well into the first round.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is a fan and thinks that it won't take long on the first day for Vaccaro to come off the board:
Vaccaro is the one that more tape I watched, the more I liked him. They played him closer to the line of scrimmage this year. He covered a bunch of slots this year. Watching (him) cover Tavon Austin at West Virginia, that's rare. In today's world, that's rare and it's important.
And I think his coverage ability is quick feet. He's tough as nails. He tackles. He looks to me, I've never met him, but it looks on tape like he loves the game. I have trouble thinking he's going to get past 15 or 20 even though safeties don't go that high. I think he'll be gone in the first 15 picks.
Other than his over-aggressiveness at times that still flashed into his senior season, the main criticism of Vaccaro seems to be his angles when filling in run support, a problem that he didn't seem to have as much while near the line of scrimmage:
The majority of Vaccaro's questionable paths to the ball-carrier come when he's running down from a deep alignment. He frequently ends up being too wide of the runner, thus allowing an inside path for the ball-carrier, or too narrow, giving up the outside. Both can be maddening to watch, especially when he allows the runner to go to a place where he doesn't have help.
It's something that Vaccaro will have to work on to see the field and could hurt his draft projections if coaches see it as something that they can't fix. The good news is that it is something that coaches should believe they can work with Vaccaro on, leaving only his Combine performance to heavily influence his stock.
If Vaccaro can run at least in the low 4.5s and show well in the other tests of athleticism, he could solidify his place in the top half of the first round.